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[0/ie.ftJ hishry o b V\^r:J 









C.B., C.M.G., R.E. (Retired), p.s.c. 








THIS history has been compiled with the purpose of pro- 
viding within reasonable compass an authoritative account, 
suitable for general readers and for students at military 
schools, of the operations of the British Army in the 
Western theatre of war in 1914-1918. It is based on the 
British official records. 

The present volume covers events from mobilization 
up to the middle of October 1914 only, a period of two 
and a half months, and is on a scale which to a large 
extent treats the battalion, squadron and battery records 
as the basis of the story. In succeeding volumes it will 
not be possible or desirable to adhere to this, and succes- 
sively the brigade, division and even corps may become 
the unit of narrative. For this volume the scale adopted 
seems appropriate, in view of the importance of small 
units in the early operations, of the lessons to be derived 
from the study of the work of these units in open warfare, 
and of the desirability of leaving a picture of what war 
was like in 1914, when trained soldiers were still of greater 
importance than material, and gas, tanks, long-range guns, 
creeping barrages and the participation of aircraft in 
ground fighting were unknown. 

The mass of documents to be dealt with was very 
great, and the difficulty has been not in obtaining in- 
formation, but in compressing and cutting down what was 
available. The British records comprise not only the 
war diaries of every staff and unit engaged, with their 
voluminous appendices containing all orders, intelligence, 


etc., received and issued, and detailed reports of actions, 
but they include also the General Headquarters files, the 
Commander-in-Chief 's diary, and practically every telegram 
and message despatched and received. These official 
documents have been supplemented by private diaries 
and papers which have been kindly lent, by regimental 
records, and by interviews with officers who took part in 
the operations. 

On a modern battlefield, however, knowledge of events 
is extraordinarily local, and the transmission of informa- 
tion difficult ; in addition important witnesses only too 
often become casualties. Though written orders and 
messages are absolutely reliable evidence of the matters 
with which they deal, war diaries and reports of actions, 
written up immediately after events, are liable to contain 
mistakes. Commanders and staffs are naturally more 
concerned in finding out and reporting the exact situation 
and condition of their troops and of the enemy, in sending 
up reinforcements, ammunition and supplies, and recording 
experience for future use than in the collection of historical 
matter. In fact, even officers well known to be specially 
interested in military history have confessed that during 
the war the idea of collecting or keeping material for its 
future historian never occurred to them. Many incidents 
deserving of record may therefore have escaped notice. 
It will greatly assist in the compilation of monographs or 
of a fuller official history in years to come, if readers who 
can supply further information or corrections will com- 
municate with the Secretary of the Historical Section, 
Committee of Imperial Defence, 2 Whitehall Gardens, 
London, S.W.I. 

The text and maps now presented are the result of the 
co-operative labours of the staff, past and present, of the 
Historical Section, Military Branch, 1 which, in collabora- 
tion with the Disposal of Records Department, War Office, 
is also charged with the sorting and arrangement of the 

1 Special assistance in compiling this volume has been rendered by 
Major A. F. Becke, Major F. W. Tomlinson, Captain G. C. Wynne and 
Mr. E. A. Dixon. 



records dealing with operations overseas. This latter part 
of its work absorbed most of its energy and time until well 
on into 1921. The Branch did not obtain a permanent 
home until October 1919 ; thus a large amount of im- 
portant material did not become available until it was 
unpacked and sorted after this date, and it was then found 
necessary to re-write an account of the initial operations 
already partly drafted. 

The British Expeditionary Force in France in 1914 
was not acting independently, and formed only a small 
part of the Allied Armies engaged ; it has therefore been 
necessary to include an account of the action of the French 
and Belgian forces sufficient to provide a proper frame- 
work for the British operations. As regards the Belgian 
Army, ample material for this purpose has been published 
by the Belgian General Staff. The French General Staff 
has not yet issued any history, but much information 
with regard to the French plans and operations has 
already been made public : officially in the reports of 
Parliamentary Enquiries, semi-officially by historians like 
M. Hanotaux, M. Engerand, M. Madelin and General 
Palat (Pierre Lehautcouri), and in the form of reminiscences 
and memoirs by actual participants, such as Generals 
Lanrezac, Gallie'ni, Dubail and Mangin. It was not, 
therefore, thought necessary to trouble the French General 
Staff except as regards the incident of the assistance 
rendered by General Sordet's Cavalry Corps at the battle 
of Le Cateau, when a copy of the war diary of the troops 
concerned was very courteously furnished. With this 
exception, it must be understood that for the French 
operations the only absolutely authoritative statements 
quoted are the orders, instructions, intelligence reports, 
etc., received officially by G.H.Q. from the French Grand 
Quartier General. 

The published German accounts of the early part of 
the war are very numerous, and they deal both with the 
decisions and orders of the higher commanders and the 
operations of many corps and even smaller fighting units. 
The most notable are the books of the three Army com- 


manders, von Kluck, von Billow and von Hausen, the 
General Staff monographs " Liittich-Namur " and "Mons," 
the official list of battles and engagements, with the 
names of the formations, etc., present, entitled " Schlachten 
und Gefechte," and the stories of participants like General 
von Zwehl, General von Kuhl, Hauptmann Bloem (the 
novelist) and Hofprediger Vogel. 1 It was originally in- 
tended to give the accounts derived from German sources 
in the form of notes at the end of each Chapter ; but, after 
consideration, it was decided that such an arrangement 
might prove inconvenient, and that it was better as a 
general rule to include them in the body of the Chapters, 
as close as possible to the events in the British narra- 
tive to which they refer. This arrangement, in view 
of the difference of the character of the material, has 
naturally caused breaks in the style and scope of the 
story, but it makes the comparison of the two accounts 

General Freiherr Mertz von Quirheim, the Director of 
the German Reichsarchiv, Berlin, which has custody of 
the war records, has been good enough to furnish material 
in order to clear up a few points on which there seemed 
insufficient information. 

As separate histories of the Royal Air Force and the 
Medical Services are being compiled, a detailed account 
of their work has not been included in the narrative. 

Two sets of maps have been prepared. The one, 
distinguished by the word " Sketches," sufficient for the 
general reader, is bound in the volume ; the other, intended 
for the use of students of war, is issued separately. Except 
the situation maps for the battle of the Aisne, which are 
taken from the originals, the maps have been compiled 
from data and sketches in the war diaries or furnished 
by officers, or from French and German publications. 

The typescript or proof sheets have been read by a 

number of commanders and staff and regimental officers 

who took part in the events narrated, and the compiler 

has been greatly assisted by their advice and criticism, 

1 See List of Books, pp. xxiii-xxvi. 


for which he tenders them his most sincere thanks. He 
is specially grateful to Mr. C. T. Atkinson, his predecessor 
in charge of the Branch, for advice and help at all times, 
which his intimate knowledge of the records made most 
valuable; and both to him and to Mr. W. B. Wood, 
the partner in the compilation of a book on an earlier 
war, for the reading and correction of the proof sheets. 

J. E. E. 

April 1922. 


THE locations of troops and places are given from right to 
left of the front of the Allied Forces, unless otherwise 
stated. Thus, even in the retreat to the Seine they are 
described from east to west. In translations of German 
orders they are left as in the original, but otherwise 
enemy troops are enumerated in relation to the British 

The convention observed in the British Expeditionary 
Force is followed as regards the distinguishing numbers 
of Armies, Corps, Divisions, etc., of the British and Allied 
Armies, e.g., they are written in full for Armies, but in 
Roman figures for Corps, and in Arabic for smaller forma- 
tions and units, except Artillery Brigades, which are 
Roman ; thus : Fourth Army, IV. Corps, 4th Division, 
4th Infantry Brigade, 4th Cavalry Brigade, IV. Brigade, 

German formations and units, to distinguish them 
clearly from the Allies, are printed in italic characters, 
thus : First Army, I. Corps, 1st Division. 

The usual Army, and sometimes the Army List, 
abbreviations of regimental names have been used in the 
narrative; for example, "2/R. West Kent" or "West 
Rents " for 2nd Battalion The Queen's Own (Royal West 
Kent Regiment); "the Somerset" or "Somerset L.I." for 
The Somerset Light Infantry ; K.O.Y.L.I. for the King's 
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry ; K.R.R.C. for The King's 
Royal Rifle Corps. To avoid constant repetition, the 
"Royal" in regimental titles is often omitted and, for 
instance, the Royal Warwickshire are called "the War- 

Abbreviations employed occasionally are : 
G.H.Q. for British General Headquarters. 
G.Q.G. for French Grand Quartier General (usually spoken 

as " Grand Q.G."). 
VOL. i xi b 


O.H.L. for German Oberste Heeresleitung (German Supreme 
Command). N.B. "G.H.Q." in German means 
Grosses Haupt-Quartier, that is the Kaiser's 
Headquarters, political, military and naval, as 
distinguished from O.H.L. 

Officers are described by the rank which they held at 
the period under consideration. 

The accents in French and Belgian place names well 
known to British troops have been omitted. 

The meaning of Reserve, Ersatz, Landwehr as applied 
to German formations is explained on pp. 21, 22. Of other 
German terms used, Jdger and Schutzen both signify 
riflemen formed in special battalions ; Abteilung means 
a group of three batteries of artillery ; a German artillery 
brigade consists of two regiments each of two or three 
Abteilungen. 1 

Pioniere : are the German field Engineers ; the word 
cannot well be translated by " Engineers " or " Pioneers," 
as the men in the Pioniere units, although they have a 
thorough training in field engineering, are not tradesmen 
of the class found in R.E. Companies, and are only employed 
on field duties ; besides, in Germany there was an " In- 
genieur Korps," which had duties in the construction and 
maintenance of fortresses. 

Time in German narratives and orders, which in the 
period dealt with was one hour earlier than British, has 
been corrected to our standard, unless it has specifically 
stated against it " German time." 

1 Abteilung also means a mounted machine-gun battery with cavalry, as 
opposed to the M.G. Kompagnie, which forms part of an infantry regiment 
or Jdger battalion. 


(Kindly pointed out by various correspondents.) 

Page 7, line 29. Add footnote : " The 5th Cavalry Brigade was left 

,, 64, penultimate line. Add footnote : " Two companies of the 
1 /Fifth Fusiliers were in the line, the remainder of the battalion 
was in brigade reserve with the Lincolnshire." 

,, 77, line 16. For " supporting " read " reserve". 

,, 78, line 13 from bottom. Add after "R.E.," : "the next bridge 
near Pommeroeul by the 1st Field Squadron R.E." 

80, line 17. Add footnote : " The 2/R. Irish Rifles had been 
attached about 2.30 P.M. to the 8th Infantry Brigade and 
relieved the Royal Scots on Hill 93." 

82, line 9 from bottom. Add after " Nouvelles." the words : " The 
two Guards battalions and the Royal Irish Rifles left Hill 93 
shortly after 2 A.M." 

91, lines 18-20. Delete the words " by the South Lancashire 
. . . two brigades." It would appear that the German 
attack was delivered before the brigades began to withdraw. 

117, line 14. Add after "enemy" the words "except a few 

118, line 6. For " south-west " read " 3 miles south-east". 
,, 119, line 18. For " division " read " Cavalry Division ". 

119, line 5 from bottom. After " slowly " add the words " on 
account of the units in front continually halting,". 

,, 128, line 22. For " Reumont " read " Maurois". 

128, line 23. For " 2 A.M." read " in the grey dawn". 

132, note 1, line 8. For " (west of Bousies) " read " (south-east of 

,, 139, first footnote. Add : " Half a squadron North Irish Horse 
reported to 4th Division Headquarters on the evening of the 
25th, and was sent to assist the flank detachment of the 
R. Inniskilling Fusiliers at Bevillers. During the night, 
however, it lost touch of the 4th Division and fought at 
Caudry on the 26th with the 3rd Division, not returning to 
the 4th until late on the 28th." 

163, line 10. For " 121st " read " 124th". 

166, line 27. For " Two half-companies " read " Three platoons ". 

166, line 29. For " here the 59th Field Company R.E. had joined 
them " read " here they found the 59th Fd. Co. R.E.". 


Pace 166, line 6 from bottom. For " the Highlanders ... at 1200 yards 
range " read : " the Highlanders, Middlesex and R.E. opened 
fire at 1500 yards range ". 
167, line 6 from bottom. For " south-west " read " south-east ". 

175. Add as footnote 3 to last line of the text : " Lieut.-Colonel 
F. G. Anley, commanding 2/Essex Regiment on the left of 
the line, received two direct reports from the French cavalry, 
one about ten minutes before the attack opened, and another 
about noon, both saying that the French were holding on all 
right. He, most unfortunately, failed to get either of these 
messages through to 12th Brigade Headquarters." 

182, first footnote, line 3. For " these losses " read " the infantry 

199, penultimate line of text. For " seventy-five " read " just over 
a hundred". 

210, line 6 from bottom. For the sentence " the northern of the two 
bridges . . . had crossed it " read : " but neither the per- 
manent bridge over the Canal near Oisy, nor the temporary 
timber one south of it (made by the 23rd Fd. Co. R.E. by 
felling trees, as the permanent bridge was in full view of the 
high ground near) were blown up or destroyed, though pre- 
pared for demolition, as at the last moment the instructions 
to do so were cancelled by triplicate orders sent by the 1st 
Division, 1st Brigade, and C.R.E." 

224, line 5. For 5th Division losses on 26th, for " 2366 " read 
" 2631 ", and for the total on 26th, for " 8217 " read " 8482 ". 

226, last line. For " llth " read " 10th". 

227, line 1. For " All three divisions " read " The main bodies of 

all three divisions". 
227, line 4. After " force " add the words " except the rear guard ". 

227, line 5. After " Oise " add " and during the night the engineers 
of the 5th Division blew up behind it the bridges over the Oise 
and Oise Canal". 

229, line 4. For " llth " read " 10th ". 

229, line 5. For " Hunter-Weston " read "Haldane". 

229, footnote 2. Add : " The suspension bridge over the Oise at 
Pontoise (3 miles south-east of Noyon) in the II. Corps area 
was not rendered unserviceable at the first attempt to destroy 
it. About 8 A.M. on the 30th a motor cyclist, Lieut. R. R. F. 
West (Intelligence Corps) brought the officer commanding 
59th Field Company R.E. (5th Division) a private note from 
Major M. P. Buckle, D.S.O., second in command of 1/R. West 
Kent (13th Infantry Brigade) killed in action 27th Oct., 
1914 informing him that the bridge was still passable, and 
asking if anything could be done. Lieut. J. A. C. Pennycuick, 
R.E., immediately volunteered to return with Lieut. West. 
The motor bicycle was loaded up with a box of 14 guncotton 
slabs, and Lieut. Pennycuick sat on top, his pockets filled 
with fuze, detonators and primers. The two officers then rode 
back the eight miles, passing first infantry and then through 
the cavalry rear guard. They climbed up one of the suspen- 
sion-cables and placed 13 slabs on the cables on top of the 
pier, the fourteenth falling into the river. The first detonator 
failed, only powdering the primer ; a second attempt was made 
and was successful : the top of the pier was blown off and the 


cables cut, and the bridge crashed down into the river No 
enemy appeared during the operation, and the two officers 
returned safely, after breakfasting at a farm en route. They 
both received the Distinguished Service Order." 
Page 249, lines 22-23. For " Ammunition Column " read " Ammunition 

JL cirlt 

255, fir ^ o P m r f,- Penult, line. For " Petit Morin " read " Grand 

273, footnote 2, line 2. For " right " read " left ". 

282, footnote 1. The numbers of the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions 
on Map 25, which shows the evening position, should be 

283, line 4. Add footnote : " A single gun of the 16th Battery 
XLI. Brigade, which had been sent forward in close support 
of the infantry, got a direct hit on and destroyed a German 
horse artillery gun and team, which were galloping for the 
safety of a reverse slope." 

288, second para., line 3. For "both bridges " read "the bridge 
at Nogent". 

288, line 4 from bottom. After " Charly " add " drove off the 
Germans preparing to demolish the bridge and". 

328, last line. For " a party " read " a party of the 59th Fd. Co. 

329, line 2. For " most northern " read " two most northern ". 
329, line 3. For " a gap " read " gaps ". 

333, line 10. After " Missy bridge " add " where the river was 70 feet 
wide and 12 feet deep". 

333, line 14. For " south bank " read " north bank by a sapper who 
swam across". 

333, lines 14-16. For " a small raft . . . R.E." read " five small 
rafts constructed by the 59th Fd. Co. R.E. of planks, straw 
and wagon covers, each capable of carrying five men." 

342. Substitute for the first seven lines : " 2/King's Royal Rifle 
Corps leading, followed by the 2/Royal Sussex. The com- 
manding officer of the former, Lieut.-Colonel Pearce Serocold, 
had orders from General Bulfin to seize the high ground above 
Troyon and secure it for the passage of the advanced guard 
of the 1st Division, whilst Lieut.-Colonel Montresor of the 
Sussex was to keep his battalion in support at Vendresse until 
needed. The leading company of the K.R.R.C., with a party 
of the 9th Lancers, on reaching the top of the hill, surprised, 
about 4.45 A.M., a German piquet, but could not progress 
much further, so that Colonel Serocold sent up two more 
companies to extend his line. The din of rifle fire now gradu- 
ally increased, although there was a marked absence of artillery 
fire, and by 5.30 it had become a roar. It was evident that 
the Germans were in strength, and Colonel Serocold called 
upon the Royal Sussex, who meantime had been brought up 
closer in anticipation that they would be required ; by 6.30 
A.M. they were deployed on his left, each battalion covering 
nearly eight hundred yards of front. At the same time 
General Bulfin threw out the Northamptons to the 'spur next 
to the eastward to protect the right flank." 


Page 343. After line 29 (end of second paragraph) add : " During the 
whole day the fight surged to and fro across some three 
hundred yards of ground, the fresh units which arrived as 
reinforcements being thrust in where they seemed most 

344, line 2 from bottom. For " south-westward " read " south- 

347, line 7 from bottom. Delete " (Point 158)". 

349, line 5. For "the first parties" read "the vanguard". It was 
counter-attacked 400 yards north of the farm and driven back. 

349, lines 17-18. For "west . . . Soupir" read: "on either side 
of La Cour de Soupir and in the open beyond it and the 
Connaught Rangers in the farm". 

349, line 21. After " 3/Coldstream " add "and Irish Guards". 
The firing line became composed of a mixture of the three 
Guards battalions. 

,, 353, 2nd para., line 15. Add after " 13th Infantry Brigade " 
the words " the other two battalions remaining south of 
the river ". 

Add after paragraph ending " north bank " : " The 
ferrying was continued under fire all day until 7 P.M. by 
Captain W. H. Johnston and Lieut. R. B. Flint of the Royal 
Engineers, carrying wounded one way and ammunition the 
other. The former officer received the Victoria Cross and the 
latter the Distinguished Service Order. Both officers were 
killed in action later in the war." 

354, line 4. Add after " the 13th " the words " on their right ". 

,, 358, line 21. Evidence appears to show that the white flag incident 
took place before the counter-attacks mentioned in line 15. 

360, line 23. For " 1/K.R.R.C. over three hundred " read " I/ and 
2/K.R.R.C. over three hundred each". 

362, line 15 from bottom. " Montberault " is shown as " Mont- 
herault " on Map 31. 

364, line 4 from bottom. For " eastwards " read "westwards ". 

,, 368, line 24. For " out of a wood between these two points " read 
" out of their trenches which lay 200 yards north of a wood ". 

,, 370, line 16 from bottom. For " Vieil Arcy " read " Pont Arcy ". 
371, line 7. For " In rear of the river " read " North of the river ". 
374, line 2. Delete "not". 

,, 378, line 9. After " easy " add " though near the river there was 
hard rock a foot below the surface ". 

,, 383, line 18. For " Bridging Train " read "1st and 2nd Bridging 

394, margin. For " Map 13 " read " Map 31 ". 

,, 404, line 11. The move to Cassel took place on the 30th, not 28th. 

424. Add under " Army Troops Engineers " the words " 1st and 
2nd Bridging Trains." 

,, 453, 4th column, " Outposts," last line. For " Army " read " Corps ". 

458, lines 8 and 9 from bottom. La Sabliere is not marked on any 
map issued with Volume I. It is on the French 1 : 80,000 
(Cambrai sheet) issued to the B.E.F. It is a wood 2 miles 
S.S.W. of Busigny, i.e. midway between Busigny and Bohain. 



(Kindly pointed out by various correspondents, 1 and extracted from the 
French and German Official accounts.) 

1 In consequence of some errors as regards the German Army having been pointed out 
by critics in the German press, the Director of the Reichsarchiv was asked, and kindly 
indicated, where the correct information could be found. 

Note. Where two references are given the first is to the FIRST EDITION ; 
that in brackets to the SECOND EDITION. 

Page 3, line 8 from bottom. After " and the like " add footnote : 

" An assurance has been received from the Reichsarchiv 
that neither in the Marine Archiv (Navy Historical Section) 
nor in the Military Section and the Espionage Section has 
anything of the nature of the sabotage system mentioned in 
the text been discovered." 

Doubtless the arrangements detected in the Empire were 
the work of irresponsible individuals. An unequivocal case of 
individual action took place on the 1st January, 1915, near 
Broken Hill, South Australia, when two Turks armed with 
rifles ambushed a picnic train, killing three men and one 
woman and wounding seven. 

Page 7, line 13 from bottom (12 from bottom). For " twenty guns " 
read : " twenty-four guns ". 

Page 14, line 7 from bottom. After " The frontier had no natural pro- 
tection " add : " both banks of the Rhine and the crest of 
the Vosges being in German hands ". 

Page 15. Add to footnote 3 : " See footnote correction to page 21 ". 

Page 21, lines 3-9. Add footnote : 

"The German Official History of the War, Military 
Operations on Land, Volume I., pages 38-39 gives the following 
totals for Germany : 

Peace strength .... 847,000 
Trained officers & men (excluding Navy) 4,900,000 
Total available for military service . 9,750,000 " 

" The same source gives for France : 
Peace strength (including coloured 

troops and Foreign Legion) . 1,052,000 
Trained officers & men (excluding Navy) 5,067,000 
Total available for military service . 5,940,000 ' 


Page 22, lines 6-15. For the paragraph " In peace . . . divisions." 
substitute : 

"The Ersatz brigades and divisions of 1914 were not 
formed from untrained men of the Ersatz Reserve, 3 but from 
trained men supernumerary to the numbers required for the 
Active and Reserve formations. They were organized like 
the Reserve formations but had not the full establishment of 
machine guns, cavalry, or artillery, and were entirely without field 
kitchens, medical units, train and ammunition columns. They 
were therefore not equivalent to other brigades and divisions 
in open warfare. (Correction furnished by a German officer.) " 

2 This consisted of men temporarily unfit, or fit and liable for military service but not 
called up for training either because they were supernumerary to the annual contingent^ 
or for family reasons, or on account of minor physical defects. 

Page 23. Add to footnote : 

" The Reichsarchiv states that no mobilization took place 
in Germany before the 1st August and that the Landsturm 
in the frontier districts was called out on the same date, not 
on the 31st July ; the troops employed against Liege were 
at peace strength. Movements of men and troops were those 
in consequence of the proclamation of drohende Kriegsgefahr 
(see correction to page 24)." Some local authorities, however, 
did not wait for this ; for General von Moser (Commander 
of the 53rd Brigade) in his " Kampf und Siegestage 1914 " 
(published by Mittler of Berlin 1915), page 1, says : 

" * On 29th July early the order ** Return to garrison " 

* reached us on the troop training ground where we had 
4 assembled on the previous day for regiment and brigade 

* training. [This signifies that one of the precautionary 
measures (see correction to page 24) was taken 2 days before 
the Precautionary Period (drohende Kriegsgefahr) was pro- 
claimed]. On the 1st August "Last preparations for taking 
4 the field." On the 2nd August (1st day of mobilization) the 
4 brigade reinforced by a squadron and 3 batteries left at 9 A.M. 
4 on frontier protection duty.' " 

Page 24. At end of 3rd paragraph (11 lines from bottom) after " Belgrade." 
add the paragraph : 

" In order to avoid the possibility of a frontier incident 
the French government ordered that 4 no individual, no 
4 patrol, should under any pretext pass a line between Hus- 
4 signy (on Luxembourg frontier, east of Longwy) and Delle ' 
(on Swiss frontier, south-east of Belfort), described by a 
precise enumeration of localities. This line on an average 
was 10 kilometres inside the frontier." 3 

3 French Official Account, Tome I., Vol. I., page 76. This particular order was 
repeated on 31st July : 

" This prohibition applies to the cavalry as well as to the other arms. No patrol, no 
" reconnoitring party, no post, no individual, must be east of the said line. Anyone who 
" crosses it will be liable to court-martial. It is only permitted to transgress this order 
" in case of a very definite attack ". (Idem p. 81.) The restriction was withdrawn at 
2 P.M on the 2nd August on account of German violation of the French frontier. (Idem 
p. 85.') (See below, page 26.) 


Page 24, lines 10 and 9 from bottom. For " On the 31st July Austria 
and Russia . . . whereupon" substitute: "At 1 P.M. on the 
30th July the ' Berlin Lokalanzeiger ' issued a special number 
(Extrablatt), announcing that mobilization had been ordered. 
The statement was soon contradicted but it was telegraphed 
to Petrograd and at 6 P.M., before contradiction arrived, 
Russia ordered general mobilization. 4 On the 31st Austria 
followed suit, and ". 

See Renouin, " Les origines imme'diates de la Guerre ", p. 146 : General Daniloff 
(Quartermaster General of the Russian Army), " Russland in Weltkrieg 1914-15 n 25-6 
General Suchomlinow (War Minister). " Erinnerungen ", pp. 365-7. 

Page 24, lines 7 to 4 from bottom. For " which meant . . . classes of 
the Reserve ; " 

substitute : " which enabled precautions similar to those of 
the British * Precautionary Period ' to be taken ; " 5 

8 On the proclamation of drohende Kriegsgefahr, the following precautionary measures 
had to be taken in all Army Corps districts : 

Protection of important railway structures : bridges, tunnels, etc. 

Recall from leave of all members of the active army. 

Recall of troops, if away, to their garrisons. 

Control of railway and other traffic. 

Execution of the measures laid down for protection of the frontier. 

Move of garrisons of active troops and fighting equipment to the islands of the North 
Sea coast. 

In addition, in the frontier districts : 

Guard of railway lines ; defence of large bridges and important railway junctions, air-ship 
sheds and establishments important to aircraft and wireless, against attempts at demolition, 
including attacks by aircraft ; removal of sick into the interior of the country. 

" If a hostile attack is made before definite mobilization, or it is evident that such an 
' attack is imminent, the Army Corps commanders must take all necessary measures to 
' remove inland from the threatened districts and protect all men liable to service, and 
' all men found fit for military service, as well as all serviceable horses. They must also, 
' as far as possible, remove all material resources from reach of the enemy, particularly 
' depots of supplies, the monies of the State, petrol. In case of necessity measures must 
4 be taken to destroy them." (Correction furnished by the Reichsarchiv.) 

Page 26, line 3 from bottom. After " four different points " add footnote : 
** They are enumerated in the French Official History, 

Tome I., Vol. I., page 83, which adds that ' at Petit Croix 

4 German cyclists fired on French custom house officers '. 
" According to the Reichsarchiv : ' There were trans- 

* gressions of the frontier by small detachments, contrary 

4 to the will of the High Command.' " 

Page 27. Add to footnote : " The German Official History of the War, 
Military Operations on Land, Vol. I., pages 104 footnote 2, 
and 105 footnote 1, revives the charges, although Freiherr 
von Schoen, German ambassador in Paris in 1914, in his book 
translated as ' The Memoirs of an Ambassador ', p. 201, has 
declared the alleged air attacks to be 4 merely the product 
4 of highly overwrought imagination '. He adds : ' How such 
4 false reports could have been given the weight of facts in 
4 pur responsible quarters, and of such momentous facts, is 
4 inconceivable.' " 


Page 155, lines 7-8. For " the 12th Infantry Brigade was resting on its 
position . . . Esnes." substitute : 

" in the 12th Infantry Brigade, which was on the left of 
the llth, the Lancashire Fusiliers and two companies of the 
Essex Regiment had from 4 A.M. onwards been preparing a 
position near Longsart and doing what digging was possible 
with their 'grubbers'. The King's Own had been delayed 
on the march, but towards 6 A.M. were seen approaching over 
the hill in quarter column." 

Page 155, lines 12-13. Delete " The King's Own were formed up pre- 
paratory to entrenching ". 

Page 155, line 17. After " fire of machine guns ", add, between commas, 
" after opening on the outpost at the railway crossing north 
of Wambaix ". 

Page 166, line 16. For " 3.30 P.M." read " 4.30 P.M.". 

Page 246, first line of footnote 2. For " These orders seemed to have 
been altered, for " substitute : " In consequence of an air 
report that the enemy had already reached Villers Cotterets, 
General von der Marwitz decided not to continue the march 
eastwards, but to strike south (German Official Account, 
Vol. III., p. 194)." 

Page 251. Add to footnote 2 : " The German Official Account, Vol. III., 
p. 203, adds that it was a I. Corps operation order captured 
by the German HI. Corps:' 

Page 333, last line but 3 (last line). 

For " Brigadier-General H. F. M. Wilson that his brigade 
(the 12th) " read : 

" Lieut-Colonel F. G. Anley, then commanding that 
brigade, that he ". 

Page 355, last line but 6 (Page 356, line 27). 

For " Bucy le Long " read : " Ste. Marguerite ". 

Page 403, lines 5-2 from bottom (Page 404, lines 5-2 from bottom). For 
" the Marine Brigade . . . night of the 19th/20th September." 
read : ** the Marine Brigade of the Royal Naval Division was 
disembarked at Dunkirk on the night of the 19th/20th 
September and the Oxfordshire Yeomanry on the 22nd." 

Page 404, line 14 (Page 405, line 14). For "On the 2nd October" read : 

" At 6 A.M. on the 3rd October ". 

line 17 (Page 405, line 17). For " night of the 4th/5th." read : 
" night of the 3rd/4th." 


No. 11 (Le Cateau). The position of the 134th Battery R.F.A. (with the 
4th Division) should be 850 yards E.N.E. of the position 
shown on the map. It was in action astride the Ligny- 
Caullery road, facing north-west. 




Great Britain . 

The Reorganization of 1908 
The Expeditionary Force 
France .... 
Belgium .... 

Composition of German Formations 






England .... 

Belgium .... 

The Operations of the French 

The Operations of the Germans 




22ND AUGUST 1914 : 

First Contact with the Enemy . . . .53 

Advance of the I. and II. Corps . . . .55 

The Situation at Nightfall ..... 57 
German Uncertainty as to the Position of the B.E.F. . 59 



Description of the Ground 

The British Dispositions 

The First Encounter with the Enemy : 

(a) The Salient 

(b) The Canal West of Mons . 






Front of the I. Corps ...... 72 

Progress of the Fight in the Salient . . . .73 

The Line of the Mons Canal West of the Salient . . 77 

The Salient ....... 78 

The Situation at Nightfall . . . . .80 

The German Account of Mons 85 



Situation of the British at Dawn of the 24th August 1914 87 
The Retreat of the I. Corps ..... 89 
The Retreat of the II. Corps . . . . .90 

The German Account of Frameries . . . .92 

The Fighting on the Left Flank of the II. Corps . . 93 

I. Corps Rear Guard and the 3rd Division, 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. 97 

II. Corps : 5th Division, 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. . t .97 
The Flank-guard Action at I^louges . . . .99 
Resumption of the Retreat . . . . .103 
Summary of the Operations on the 24th August . .105 
German Movements on the 24th August . . .107 

Note : Operations of the French Troops on the British Left . 108 



Orders for the 25th August . . . . .110 

Movements on the 25th August : 

The I. Corps . . . . . .113 

The II. Corps . . . . . .115 

Movements of the German First and Second Armies . 121 

Note : Movement of General Valabregue's Group of Reserve 

divisions 122 




The Affairs at Landrecies and Maroilles . . .124 

The II. Corps The Rear-guard Action of Solesmes . 127 

The Movements of the German First Army on 25th 

August ....... 130 

First Belgian Sortie during 24th, 25th, 26th August . 132 

The Situation at Midnight, 25th/26th August . .133 

General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien's Decision . . . 134 

Arrival of the 4th Division in its Position 137 





Formation of the Line of Battle . 141 

The Battle : 

The Right of the Line ..... 147 

The Right Centre of the Line . 152 

The Left Wing . . . . ', ! 154 



5 P.M. : 
The Right of the Line . . . . . .161 

The Right Centre of the Line . . . .168 

The 3rd Division ...... 170 

The 8th Infantry Brigade and the 4th Division . . 171 

Summary of the Situation at 5 P.M. . . .174 


The Right of the Line . . . . . .176 

The 3rd Division ...... 178 

The 4th Division . . . . . .179 

German Accounts of Le Cateau . . . .182 

General d'Amade's Force on the British Left . . 185 

The Troops left on the Battlefield, 3rd and 4th Divisions . 187 


28TH AUGUST . . . . . .193 

Notes : I. General Joffre's Congratulatory Telegram . . 199 

II. The German Corps at the Battle of Le Cateau . 200 



26th August, the Rear-guard Affair of Le Grand Fayt . 203 
27th August, the Rear-guard Affair of Etreux . 206 

28th August, the Affair at Cerizy . . . .215 

General Situation on the Night of 28th/29th August . 216 
The Movements of the German First and Second Armies 

from 26th to 28th August 
Notes : I. The Movements of the French Fifth Army from 

Charleroi to Guise 223 

II. British Losses, 23rd-27th August . . .224 



29th August . . . . . . .225 

30th August . . . . . . .228 

31st August ....... 230 

The Movements of the German First and Second Armies, 

29th to 31st August . . . . .233 



The Affair of Nery . . . . . .236 

The Rear-guard Action of Crepy en Valois . . 240 

The Rear-guard Actions of Villers Cotterets . . 240 

General Movements of the 1st September . . . 243 

German Movements on 1st September . . . 246 




2nd September : Retirement to Meaux Dammartin . 248 
Operations of the German First and Second Armies, 

2nd September 1914 . . . 250 

3rd September : Passage of the Marne . . . 252 

4th September : Retirement to the Grand Morin . . 255 

5th September : The End of the Retreat . . . 258 

The Change of Base ...... 262 

Operations of the German First and Second Armies, 

3rd-5th September 1914 . .264 



6th September : The Return to the Offensive . . 271 

7th September : The March to the Grand Morin . . 276 

8th September : The Forcing of the Petit Morin . . 280 

9th September : The Passage of the Marne . . 288 

The Cavalry and I. Corps . . ' . 288 

Operations of the II. Corps . . 289 

Operations of the III. Corps . . 292 



10th September : The Beginning of the Pursuit . . 307 

llth September : The Incline to the North-East . . 312 

12th September : The Advance to the Aisne . . 314 

The German Retirement from the Battle of the Marne . 319 

Note: Second Belgian Sortie from Antwerp . . . 322 





13th September : The Situation of the German Right Wing 

on the Night of the 12th/13th 

September .... 324 
The Passage of the Aisne . . 325 

The 13th September from the German 

Side . . . . .338 

14th September : The Day of Battle . . . 340 

I. Corps : Advance of the 1st Division . 341 

do. Advance of the 2nd Division 346 
The Centre and Left : II. and III. 

Corps 350 

The Left Centre : 5th Division . . 353 

The Left : 4th Division . . .356 

The I. Corps . . . .357 

Summary of the 14th September . 360 

The 14th September from the German 

Side . . . . .362 

Situation on the Night of 14th September 365 

15th September : The Deadlock . . . .367 



General Strategic Situation ..... 372 
The Beginning of Trench Warfare .... 374 
Operations on the Aisne : 

The Week of 16th-22nd September . . .383 

16th September 385 

17th September . . . . . .386 

18th September . . . . . .388 

19th September 388 

20th September : 

Attacks on the 1st Division . . . 389 

2nd Division . . . 391 

3rd Division . . .392 

21st-24th September . . . ... 394 

25th-27th September : 

The Last Attacks ..... 

28th September-14th October . . . .398 

The Extension of the Opposing Armies Northward : 

The Race to the Sea 399 

Transfer of the British from the Aisne to the Left of 

the Line 406 

Retrospect of the Battle of the Aisne . . . 407 



1. Order of Battle of the British Expeditionary Force, 

August and September 1914 .... 413 

2. Notes on the organization of some of the principal forma- 

tions and units of the British Expeditionary Force in 
1914 427 

3. Order of Battle of the French Armies in August 1914 . 430 

4. Notes on the organization of some of the principal French 

formations and units in 1914 .... 432 

5. Order of Battle of the Belgian Army in August 1914 . 434 

6. Order of Battle of the German Armies in August 1914 . 435 

7. Notes on the organization of some of the principal German 

formations and units in 1914 .... 439 

8. Instructions to Sir John French from Earl Kitchener, 

August 1914 .... . 442 

9. The French plan of campaign, Plan 17 (translation) . 444 

10. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 5, 1 P.M. 20th 

August 1914 (with march table and allotment of 
Army troops) ...... 450 

11. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 6, 11.55 P.M. 

21st August 1914 ...... 455 

12. Sir John French's supplementary instruction to Cavalry 

Division, 11.35 P.M. 21st August 1914 . . . 456 

13. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 7, 8.25 P.M. 

24th August 1914 ...... 457 

14. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 8, 7.30 P.M. 

25th August 1914 . . . . . .458 

15. 4th Division Operation Order No. 1, 5 P.M. 25th August 

1914 ........ 460 

16. II. Corps Operation Order No. 6, 10.15 P.M. 25th August 

1914 ........ 462 

17. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 9, 8.30 P.M. 

27th August 1914 . . . . . 463 

18. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 10, 11.30 P.M. 

28th August 1914 464 

19. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 11, 9 P.M. 29th 

August 1914 .... .466 

20. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 12, 5.15 P.M. 

30th August 1914 .... .467 

21. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 13, 8.50 P.M. 

31st August 1914 469 

22. Telegraphic communications between Earl Kitchener 

and Sir John French, 30th August to 1st September 
1914 471 




23. G.H.Q. messages to I. Corps anticipating and confirming 

order to retire, 1st September 1914 . . 476 

24. Correspondence with regard to halting on the Marne and 

the retreat behind the Seine (translation) 477 

25. Original of Appendix 24 . . 4gO 

26. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 14, 7.30 P.M. 

2nd September 1914 ...... 433 

27. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 15, 11.50 P.M. 

3rd September 1914 ...... 485 

28. Le General Commandant en Chef au Field Marechal Sir 

John French, Commandant en Chef les forces Britan- 
niques, 4th September 1914 . . . . 437 

29. Letter of Sir John French to Earl Kitchener, 7th September 

1914 . .... 488 

30. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 16, 6.35 P.M. 

4th September 1914 ...... 490 

31. Table giving length of daily marches (in miles) from 20th 

August to 5th September (both inclusive) . . 492 

32. General Joffre's General Order for the battle of the Marne 

(translation) ....... 493 

33. Original of Appendix 32 . . . . . 495 

34. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 17, 5.15 P.M. 

5th September 1914 . . . . . .496 

35. Cavalry Division Operation Order No. 11, 5th September 

1914 (with march table) ..... 498 

36. I. Corps Operation Order No. 10, 5th September 1914 . 500 

37. II. Corps Operation Order No. 15, 5th September 1914 . 501 

38. III. Corps Operation Order No. 7, 5th September 1914 . 503 

39. Sir John French's Special Order of the Day, 6th September 

1914 ........ 504 

40. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 18, 9 P.M. 7th 

September 1914 . . . . . .505 

41. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 19, 7.30 P.M. 

8th September 1914 .... .507 

42. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 20, 8.15 'P.M. 

9th September 1914 .... .508 

43. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 21, 8.15 P.M. 

10th September 1914 . . . 510 

44. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 22, 6 P.M. llth 

September 1914 . . .512 

45. General Joffre's Special Instruction No. 23 of 12th Sep- 

tember 1914 . . . . . 514 

46. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 23, 7.45 P.M. 

12th September 1914 . . . . . 515 



47. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 24, 6 P.M. 13th 

September 1914 . . . . . .517 

48. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 25, 14th Sep- 

tember 1914 . . . . . . .519 

49. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 26, 8.30 P.M. 

15th September 1914 ... .521 

50. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 27, 8.30 P.M. 

16th September 1914 ... .522 

51. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 28, 3 P.M. 1st 

October 1914 . . . . . .523 

52. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 29, 11 A.M. 2nd 

October 1914 525 

53. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 30, 8 A.M. 4th 

October 1914 ...... 527 

54. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 31, 8.30 A.M. 

5th October 1914 528 



(Bound in Volume) 

Sketch 1. General Theatre of Operations (Western 

Front) .... At beginning 

2. Operations, 4th-22nd August 1914 . Facing p. 33 

3. Operations, 23rd-28th August 1914 . 47 

4. Operations, 28th August -5th September 

1914 . 213 

5. The German Advance, 17th August-5th 

September 1914 . . 221 

6. Operations, 6th-13th September 1914 . 273 

7. The Aisne Battlefield, September 1914 . 325 

8. The Extension of the Battle Line north- 
wards, -15th September - 8th October 
1914 . . 399 


(In Separate Case) 

Plate 1. Order of Battle of a German Cavalry Division and a 

German Corps in August 1914. 
Map 1. The Concentration of the Armies. 

2. General Map of Theatre of Operations in Belgium and 
France, 1 : 1,000,000. 

3. North- West Europe. Mons to Compiegne, 1 : 250,000. 
4. France. Compiegne to Paris and Melun, 1 : 250,000. 
5. Situation, 17th-24th August 1914. 

6. The Battlefield of Mons, 23rd-24th August 1914 (layered 

7. Mons, Sunday, 23rd August 1914. 

8. Flank-guard Action at ^louges, Monday, 24th August 


9. Situation of B.E.F. night 25th/26th August 1914. 



Map 10. The Battlefield of Le Cateau, 26th August 1914 (layered 

11. Action of Le Cateau, Wednesday, 26th August 1914. 

12. The Fights at Fesmy and Etreux (2/Royal Munster 
Fusiliers and 1 section 118th Battery R.F.A.), Thursday, 
27th August 1914. 

13. The Retreat from Mons, 23rd-29th August 1914. 

14. Situation, 29th August 1914. 

15. Situation, 30th August 1914. 

16. Situation, 31st August 1914. 

17. 1st September 1914 (for the Fights at Villers Cotterets, 
Crepy en Valois and Nery). 

18. Situation, 1st September 1914. 

19. Situation, 2nd September 1914. 

20. Situation, 3rd September 1914. 

21. Situation, 4th September 1914. 

22. Situation, 5th September 1914. 

23. Situation, 6th September 1914. 

24. Situation, 7th September 1914. 

25. Situation, 8th September 1914. 

26. Situation, 9th September 1914. 

27. Situation, 10th September 1914. 

28. Situation, llth September 1914. 

29. Situation, 12th September 1914. 

30. G.H.Q. Situation Map, 8 P.M. 13th September 1914. 

31. The Aisne Battlefield, 1914 (layered map). 

32. G.H.Q. Situation Map, 8 P.M. 14th September 1914. 

33. G.H.Q. Situation Map, evening of 15th September 1914. 

34. G.H.Q. Situation Map, evenings of 21st-25/26th September 



BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS : " Die Marneschlacht 1914." By General- 
major Baumgarten-Crusius. (Leipzig : Lippold, 5 marks.) 

An account of the battle of the Marne and the events leading 
to it, founded on official records. It is written particularly 
from the point of view of the German Third Army by a Saxon 
general. This was the first German book which told the truth 
about the Marne. 

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS II. : " Deutsche Heerfiihrung im Marne- 
feldzug 1914." By Generalmajor Baumgarten-Crusius. (Berlin : 
Scherl, 31 marks.) 

A further contribution to the solution of the question of 
responsibility for the orders to retreat at the battle of the 

BELGIAN GENERAL STAFF : " Military Operations of Belgium in 
Defence of the Country and to Uphold her Neutrality." (English 
translation : London, Collingridge, Is. net.) 

Report, compiled by the Belgian General Staff, for the 
period July 31st to December 31st, 1914. 

BLOEM : " Vormarsch." By Walter Bloem. (Leipzig : Grethlein, 
6 marks.) 

One of the most graphic and dramatic accounts of war yet 
written. The author is a well-known German novelist, who 
was serving, as a Reserve Captain, in the 12th Brandenburg 
Grenadiers (III. Corps of von Kluck's Army). He gives the 
story of his experiences from outbreak of war to the Aisne, 
where he was wounded on Chivres Spur. 

BRANDIS : " Die Sturmer von Douaumont." By Oberleutnant von 
Brandis. (Berlin : Scherl, 2 marks.) 

The author served in the 24th Regiment of the III. Corps 
at Mons, Frameries, etc. He later took part in the capture of 
Fort Douaumont, Verdun ; this incident is commemorated in 
the title of his book. 

BULOW : " Mein Bericht zur Marneschlacht." By Generalfeld- 
marschall von Billow. (Berlin : Scherl, 9-60 marks.) (Trans- 
lated into French as " Mon rapport sur la bataille de la Marne.") 
(Paris : Payot, 6 francs.) 

A clear military narrative, with sketch maps, by the com- 
mander of the German Second Army, which includes the battle 
of the Aisne 1914. 



" Deutsche Kavallerie " : " Die Deutsche Kavallerie in Belgien und 
Frankreich 1914." By Generalleutnant von Poseck. (Berlin : 
Mittler, 60 marks.) 

The author was Chief of the Staff of the /. Cavalry Corps, 
and is now Inspector of Cavalry. It is a very valuable summary 
of the cavalry operations, based on the official records. 

ENGERAND : " La Bataille de la Frontiere (Aout 1914)." By 
Fernand Engerand, Depute. (Paris : Bossard, 7-50 francs.) 

The author was " rapporteur " of the Parliamentary Com- 
mission which inquired into the loss of the Briey Basin. He 
gives a summary of the report, with important documents as 

FALKENHAYN : " General Headquarters 1914-1916 and its Critical 
Decisions." By General Erich von Falkenhayn. (English 
translation, Hutchinson & Co., 21s.) 

Von Falkenhayn was Prussian Minister of War in 1914 ; 
but on 14th September he took over the duties of Chief of the 
General Staff from von Moltke. The book deals mostly with 
the successes of the Russian theatre of war, but contains much 
of importance as regards decisions in the West. 

GALLIENI : " Memoires du General Gallieni. Defense de Paris." 
(Paris : Payot, 16 francs.) 

A most valuable record. With Situation Maps. 

HANOTAUX : " Histoire illustree de la Guerre de 1914." By M. Gabriel 
Hanotaux. Nine volumes published. (Paris : Gounouilhou, 
25 francs per volume.) 

A beautifully illustrated work containing a large number 
of official documents, which make it valuable. The ninth 
volume carries the narrative to the 6th September 1914. 

HAUSEN : " Erinnerungen an der Marnefeldzug 1914." By General- 
oberst Freiherr von Hausen. (Leipzig : Koehler, 24 marks.) 
(A French translation has been announced.) 

A personal and historical account of the campaign up to 
the end of the battle of the Marne by the commander of the 
German Third Army, with numerous sketch maps and an order 
of battle of the German forces. 

HEUBNER : " Unter Emmich vor Liittich. Unter Kluck vor 
Paris." By H. Heubner, Hauptmann der Reserve und 
Professor in Wernigerode. (Schwerin : Bahn, 5 marks.) 

A very vivid account by a professor and Reserve captain, 
which ends at the Aisne 1914. He belonged to the 20th 
Infantry Regiment, llth Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, III. 
Corps of von Kluck's Army and was at Mons, the Ourcq, etc. 

KLUCK : " Der Marsch auf Paris, und die Marneschlacht 1914." 
By A. von Kluck, Generaloberst. (Berlin : Mittler, 27 marks.) 
(Translated as " The March on Paris 1914." Edward Arnold, 

Von Kluck's own statement, with a very fine map showing 
the movements of the German First Army. 



KUHL : " Der deutsche Generalstab in Vorbereittmg und Durch- 
fiihrung des Weltkrieges." By General der Infanterie H. von 
Kuhl. (Berlin : Mittler, 27 marks.) 

An account of the work of the Great General Staff in 
preparation for and during the war, specially valuable for the 
part dealing with the development of the German plan of 
campaign. The author was the Chief of the Staff to von Kluck 
and Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, and had served 
22 years on the Great General Staff before the war. 

KUHL'S " Marne " : " Der Marnefeldzug 1914." By General der 
Infanterie H. von Kuhl. (Berlin : Mittler, 48 marks.) 

Published January 1921. Regarded by the German Press 
as the last word on the battle of the Marne until the official 
account appears. 

LOHRISCH : " Im Siegessturm von Liittich an die Marne." By 
Oberleutnant der Reserve Dr. H. Lohrisch. (Leipzig : Quelle 
und Meyer, 5 marks.) 

The author served in the 27th Infantry Regiment of the 
IV. Corps in the early fighting, including Le Cateau. 

'* Luttich-Namur " : " Der grosse Krieg in Einzeldarstellungen. 
Herausgegeben im Auftrage des grossen Generalstabes." (Olden- 
burg : Gerhard Stalling, 2-40 marks + war percentage.) 

In the series of Great General Staff monographs. A very 
complete account of the capture of Liege and Namur. 

" Mons " : " Die Schlacht bei Mons." 

In the same series as " Luttich-Namur." There are 
excellent maps showing the German dispositions. 

M.W.B. : Militar Wochenblatt. 

PALAT : "La grande guerre sur le front occidental." By General 
Palat. Seven volumes published. (Paris : Chapelot, 12 francs 

A valuable unofficial compilation, as regards the movements 
of the French. The seventh volume carries the story of the war 
on the Western Front to end of the " Race to the Sea," 1914. 
The maps are portions of the 1 : 80,000 with no troops marked 
on them. 

" Schlachten und Gefechte " : " Die Schlachten und Gefechte des 
Grossen Krieges, 1914-1918. Quellenwerk nach amtlichen 
Bezeichnungen zusammengestellt vom Grossen G'eneralstab." 
(Berlin : Sack, 42 marks.) 

An official list of battles compiled by the Great General 
Staff showing the formations, etc., engaged in each, and lists 
of the higher commanders, with excellent index. 

STEGEMANN : " Geschichte des Krieges." Vols. I. II. and III. By 
H. Stegemann, a Swiss journalist. (Stuttgart : Deutsche 
Vertags-Anstalt, 24 marks each.) 

A good general account of the war from the German point 
of view. 


TAPPEN : " Bis zur Marne." By Generalleutnant Tappen. (Olden- 
burg : Stalling, 3 marks.) 

The author was head of the Operations Section of Supreme 
Headquarters until August 1916. His book gives considerable 
insight into the opening operations up to and including the 
Marne, but has led to a good deal of controversy in Germany. 

VOGEL : " 3,000 Kilometer mit der Garde-Kavallerie." By Hof- 
prediger Dr. Vogel. (Leipzig : Velhagen und Klassing, 5 

This is practically a picturesque diary of the operations 
of the Guard Cavalry Division from outbreak of war to May 
1915, written by the Divisional Chaplain. 

WIRTH : " Von Saale zur Aisne." By Hauptmann der Landwehr 
A. Wirth. (Leipzig : Hesse & Becker, 5 marks.) 

A small diary by an orderly officer attached to the Staff 
of the 13th Reserve Division (IV. Reserve Corps) that fought 
at Le Cateau, etc. 

" Ypres " : " Ypres 1914 " (Constable : 5s.), translation of " Die 
Schlacht an der Yser und bei Ypern im Herbst 1914." (In the 
same series as " Liittich-Namur.") 

Contains, besides an account of the First Ypres, a good 
many details of the organization of the German Army. 

ZWEHL : " Maubeuge, Aisne, Verdun." By General der Infanterie 
von Zwehl. (Berlin : Curtius, 72 marks.) 

The author commanded the VII. Reserve Corps, captured 
Maubeuge, and reached the Chemin des Dames ridge at the 
Aisne just in time to prevent the British I. Corps from seizing 
it. There is a good account of the battle and much else of 
interest in the book. 




THE year 1871, which witnessed the foundation of the 
German Empire, marked also an epoch in the history of 
the British Army. In that year the first steps were taken 
to replace the old army of Peninsular model by a force 
raised and organized on modern lines : the system of 
purchase, under which officers bought their commissions 
in each successive rank, was abolished ; short service was 
adopted, 1 not so much with the idea of attracting recruits 
as of building up a reserve ; and regiments of infantry, 
except those which were already composed of more than 
one battalion, were grouped in pairs. Ten years later, in 
1881, this grouping was made permanent, the old numbers 
were abolished and the infantry was reconstituted into 
double - battalion regiments with territorial titles on a 
territorial basis. 2 

The old Militia remained, as always, on a territorial 
basis. It was gradually drifting back to the function, 
which it had fulfilled during the Napoleonic wars, of a 
recruiting depot for the army, but without the ballot ; 
for the enforcement of the ballot had for a long time been 
suspended by an annual Act of Parliament. 3 

1 It had already been tried in Marlborough's time and in the Napoleonic 
wars, and had been the rule with the European regiments of the East 
India Company's Service. 

2 An excellent account of the development of the Army will be found 
in " The Army Book of the British Empire " (H.M. Stationery Office, 
5s.). It unfortunately stops at 1893. 

3 The ballot had been systematically employed almost all through the 
Napoleonic wars. There were two kinds of Militia : the Regular, which 
was permanently embodied in war time and provided a home-defence 
force; and the Local, which, apart from annual training, was only to be 
called out in case of actual invasion and rebellion, so that it was practically 
a training reserve. 

VOL. I 1 B 


Side by side with the Militia stood the Yeomanry 
Cavalry, first called into being by the threat of a French 
invasion in 1794-95. It attracted an excellent class of 
recruit, but its training was very limited, both in scope 
and duration. 

Behind the Militia and Yeomanry were the Volunteers, 
chiefly infantry. They also had been first formed in 
1794-95 ; but in 1806-7 they had been transformed into 
Local Militia, recruited by ballot without power of sub- 
stitution, and subject to the same discipline as the Militia. 
After 1815 the Local Militia soon died out ; but in 
1859 the Volunteers were revived on the original basis of 

The best part of a generation, however, was needed for 
the new army system, initiated in 1871, to settle down 
and bear fruit. The home battalion of a regiment was for 
years little more than a group of boys who, as they matured, 
were drafted out to the battalion on foreign service. Only 
in India was the real British Army of fully-trained and 
grown men to be seen. 

In 1899-1902 the war in South Africa put the British 
military forces to a rude practical test. Never before had 
so many troops been sent overseas. The Regular Army 
was found to be too small for the work even when the 
Reserves had been called out, and means to supplement 
it had to be improvised ; the Militia and Yeomanry 
volunteered for foreign service almost to a man ; the 
Volunteer battalions sent a succession of companies to 
the Regular battalions of their regiments in South Africa, 
and formed special active service units ; and the Overseas 
Dominions and Colonies enthusiastically raised and de- 
spatched contingents. The experience acquired by all 
arms and by all branches of the Staff in this war was 
soon to prove of the utmost value. 

In February 1904 the office of Commander-in-Chief was 
abolished, and with it the system which had been built up 
by the Duke of York between 1795-1809. After his death 
in 1827 the Secretary of State, representing the Govern- 
ment, had gradually indeed acquired most of the powers 
of the Commander-in-Chief, until few of them were left. 
An Army Council was set up, which gave the Secretary of 
State a board of six advisers : four professional soldiers, 
each of them at the head of a great department, and two 
civilians, known as the financial and civil members. The 
duties of the Commander-in-Chief as regards inspection of 


troops were transferred to an Inspector-General of the 

Next came the constitution of a General Staff, on 
principles which were decided at a meeting of the Army 
Council on 9th August 1905. The Chief of the General 
Staff was authorized to proceed with its formation on 
llth November 1905. Instructions for its organization were 
promulgated by a special Army Order of 12th September 
1906. Such a body was a complete innovation in the 
British Army. The word " Staff " had been known for 
generations, but signified originally no more than the 
Department of the Commander-in-Chief as contrasted with 
that of the Secretary of State for War of the Horse 
Guards as distinguished from the War Office. This Staff, 
however, was an administrative one only; there was no 
such thing as a Staff at Headquarters charged with such 
duties as are now associated with the name. Nor was the 
Headquarters Staff at the Horse Guards consulted as to 
military plans and operations. Its business was to pro- 
vide such trained men as the Cabinet required, not to advise 
as to their duties or employment. 

The General Staff came into being under the guidance 
of Mr. (now Lord) Haldane, who became Secretary of 
State for War in December 1905, and was charged with 
the duty of reorganizing the land forces not only of the 
country, but of the Empire. 

The need of reform was urgent, for the Germans made 
little concealment of their intention to enter the lists for 
the domination of the world, and were not only perfecting 
vast military preparations, but quietly insinuating them- 
selves into the control of the most important financial and 
commercial undertakings of their neighbours. They had 
already established an elaborate system of espionage, and 
were abusing the hospitality of friendly States by organizing 
also a system of sabotage that is to say, the destruction, 
by secret agents introduced in time of peace, of such im- 
portant means of communication as telegraph lines, rail- 
way junctions and bridges, and the like. Hitherto our 
ancient and glorious rival had been France ; but this new 
enemy lay to the east and not to the south ; and the eyes 
of those charged with the defence of the United Kingdom 
were now turned towards the North Sea instead of towards 
the Channel. 

In order to fulfil our treaty obligations in respect of 
Belgium, there was now also a prospect that it might 


become necessary to land a force on the continent of 
Europe : to protect the integrity of Belgium, and to operate 
in conjunction with the French and Belgian armies in case 
of a German attack on France which involved the violation 
of Belgian neutrality. Britain had always depended 
hitherto upon a nominally voluntary army for service 
abroad ; bu* the numbers that could thus be raised were 
unlikely to be sufficient in an European war on a modern 
scale ; and to combine a voluntary with a compulsory 
system of recruiting at short notice seemed impracticable, 
even if Parliament could have been brought to assent 
to it. 

The problem presented to Mr. Haldane, therefore, was 
how to reorganize the existing forces so as to raise them to 
the highest point of efficiency, and to provide for their 
rapid expansion in time of need. 

The Staff 

The first step was to build up a General Staff which 
should be the brains of the army ; and special care was 
taken to separate its work, as a department concerned with 
strategy and training, from that of the old Headquarters 
Staff, whose duties were purely administrative. The 
instruction for officers of all branches of the Staff was 
provided at the Staff College, Camberley, which was 
greatly enlarged, and at the Indian Staff College at Quetta, 
recently founded by Lord Kitchener. From the graduates 
of these institutions officers for the General Staff and for 
the Adjutant-General's and Quartermaster -General's De- 
partments were chosen. For the technical instruction of 
the Administrative Staff special arrangements were made 
at the London School of Economics for selected officers, 
including Staff College graduates, to be trained in such 
matters as business management and railway organization. 


The initial difficulty of providing a reserve of officers 
was very great. Mr. Haldane turned to the universities 
to supplement the military colleges at Sandhurst and 
Woolwich by converting the Volunteer Corps which had 
long existed in our older universities into Officers' Training 


Corps ; x and in these, under the guidance of the General 
Staff and with the concurrence of the university authorities, 
practical military instruction was given not only to army 
candidates but to many members who did not intend 
entering the military profession as a career. Public 
schools which possessed Volunteer Corps were invited 
to convert them into Contingents of the Officers' Training 
Corps ; whilst universities and schools which had not 
got them were encouraged to form them, and those that 
did so were given the privilege of nominating a certain 
number of boys for admission to Sandhurst without further 

The Regular Army 

The great want of the mounted branches was a reserve 
of horses to make good the deficiencies on mobilization. 
This was supplied by taking a census of all horses in the 
kingdom, and obtaining statutory power to requisition all 
that were suitable for military purposes. 

In the Artillery there was an insufficiency of ammuni- 
tion columns to meet the increased expenditure of ammuni- 
tion due to the introduction of quick-firing guns. The 
Garrison Artillery Militia was therefore turned into a 
Special Reserve, to be used primarily in the formation of 
these columns ; and thirty-three regular batteries, which 
had their full complement of guns but few men, were 
employed to train them. The general reserve of artillery 
was, by careful nursing, increased. By 1912 the number 
of batteries that could be mobilized for war had been 
increased from forty-two to eighty-one. The field artillery 
was organized into brigades, each of three batteries and an 
ammunition column. 

In the Infantry steps were taken to restore the observ- 
ance of the system, generally called Lord CardwelPs, that 
for every battalion abroad at least one should be at home. 
The balance had been upset as a consequence of the South 
African War and our rapid Imperial expansion. By the 
withdrawal of certain colonial garrisons, the proportion 
was eventually established at eighty-four battalions at 
home including nine of Guards that did not come into 
the Cardwell system and seventy-three abroad. 

1 The idea of turning the University Volunteers into an Officers' 
Training Corps was suggested by Lord Lovat and others just after the 
conclusion of the South African war, but was not then taken up by the 


The Army Service Corps, reorganized in 1888, had 
proved itself so efficient in South Africa that it needed 
little more than such changes in organization as were 
entailed by the introduction of motor transport. In 1900 
the War Office had appointed a Mechanical Transport 
Committee ; and by 1911 two schemes were in operation, 
viz. (a) the Provisional Subsidy Scheme, by which civil 
vehicles could be requisitioned for military purposes, until 
through (b) the Main Subsidy Scheme the number of 
vehicles built to the War Office specifications for private 
owners should suffice to supply the needs of the Army. 
Both schemes were employed to furnish the necessary 
vehicles on mobilization in 1914. In 1912 the transport 
of the divisions and the cavalry was reorganized. The 
horsed baggage and supply wagons were grouped into 
Train companies, leaving only first line or fighting trans- 
port with regimental units. For each division there was 
formed a divisional supply column of motor lorries, whose 
business it was to bring up rations to a point where the 
supply sections of the divisional Train could refill, and, if 
possible, to take back sick and wounded. 

In the Medical Services of the Army many important 
changes were made in organization, training and adminis- 
tration. 1 They were due not only to the experience gained 
in the South African War, but to the lessons learnt from 
the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, and to the revision 
of the Geneva Convention in 1906, which afforded a new 
basis for the organization of voluntary aid. In the place 
of the bearer companies and field hospitals each division 
and the cavalry division were provided with self-contained 
field ambulances, and a new echelon the clearing hospital 
was introduced to facilitate the rapid evacuation of wounded, 
which was to be the great feature of the new system. Motor 
transport, though proposed in 1908, was only introduced on a 
very meagre scale, sufficient for peace purposes. The Army 
Nursing Service was put on a firm basis. Under the 
auspices of an Army Medical Board, of which eminent 
civilian specialists were members, sanitation, measures for 
prevention of disease, inoculation, and the provision of 
pure water, received special attention. To keep the 
medical service in touch with the General Staff, officers of 
the Royal Army Medical Corps were appointed to special 

1 They will be found described in detail in " History of the Great 
War, Medical Services, General History," and are therefore enumerated 
very briefly here. 


sections of the Directorates of Military Operations and 
Military Training. The medical service of the Territorial 
Force was organized similarly to that of the Regular Army, 
and large provision made for the formation of hospitals in 
time of war and the organization of voluntary aid. 

The Militia was renamed Special Reserve, to indicate 
what it had long been in practice a depot for feeding the 
Regular Army. This was a reversion to the policy of 
Castlereagh, who had also turned the Old Militia (as it was 
called) into a recruit depot. This Old Militia consisted 
almost entirely of substitutes hired to take the place of 
balloted men, who when they had thus joined were offered 
a bounty to enlist in the Line and refill the ranks of 
Wellington's army in the Peninsula. 

The Expeditionary Force 

The Regular Army, or First Line, was reorganized 
into an expeditionary force consisting of six divisions of 
all arms and one cavalry division. Each of the six divi- 
sions comprised three infantry brigades, or twelve battalions 
altogether, with divisional mounted troops, artillery, 
engineers, signal service, supply and transport train, and 
field ambulances. The total war establishment of each 
division was thus raised to some 18,000 of all ranks and 
descriptions, of whom 12,000 were infantry, with 24 
machine guns, and 4,000 artillery, with seventy-six guns 
(fifty-four 18-pdrs. ; eighteen 4-5-inch howitzers ; and 
four 60-pdrs.). The Cavalry Division comprised four 
brigades of three regiments each, and cavalry divisional 
troops, consisting of artillery, engineers, signal service 
and medical units. The strength was some 9000 of all 
ranks and 10,000 horses, with twenty guns (13-pdrs.) 
and twenty-four machine guns. Although the nucleus 
of one corps staff was maintained in time of. peace, at 
Aldershot, and corps had been formed at manoeuvres, it 
was not originally intended to have any intermediate 
echelon between the General Headquarters of the Ex- 
peditionary Force and the six divisions. The decision 
to form corps was in order to conform to French organi- 
zation made immediately on the formal appointment 
on mobilization of Field-Marshal Sir John French as 
Commander-in-Chief. Thus it happened that two out 
of the three corps staffs had to be improvised ; and even 
in the divisional staffs the Peace Establishment allowed for 


only two out of the six officers given in the War Establish- 
ment. None the less, this new organization was a great 
step forward in the preparation of the army for war. 

The Second Line 

The Yeomanry became the second line of cavalry, and 
was reorganized into fourteen brigades. 

The Volunteers were treated according to the precedent 
of Castlereagh, who had invited them to convert themselves 
into Local Militia, on pain of disbandment. So, too, Mr. 
Haldane bade them either become Territorial troops or 
cease to exist. Mr. Haldane further reverted to the old 
policy of decentralization, and entrusted the raising and 
administration of the Territorial Force to the County 
Lieutenancies, renamed Territorial Associations, under the 
Presidency of the Lords Lieutenant. The only difference 
between the two statesmen was that Castlereagh insisted 
upon compulsory personal service, under the ballot, for the 
Local Militia, whereas Mr. Haldane did not or rather, 
in the prevailing temper of Parliament, could not do the 
same for the Territorial Force. This force, whose establish- 
ment was something over 300,000 strong, was organized 
upon exactly the same lines as the Regular Army. Its 
units were grouped into fourteen divisions, commanded by 
major-generals of the Regular Army with small Regular 

The old Militia Garrison Artillery was replaced by 
Territorial Coast Artillery. The field artillery of Terri- 
torial divisions was armed with 15-pounder guns converted 
into quick-firers, and 5-inch howitzers used in the South 
African War ; its heavy artillery consisted of 4-7-inch guns. 

So much for the reorganization of the Territorial Forces 
on paper. Unfortunately, before 1914, both Special 
Reserve and Territorial troops sank so far below their 
establishment as to cause some anxiety at headquarters ; 
but it was not doubted that many old Territorials would 
rejoin the force at the approach of danger ; and this con- 
fidence proved to be well justified. It is true that it was 
not anticipated that the Territorials would be ready for the 
field in less than six months ; but they had had at least 
some training ; and, since their organization was identical 
with that of the First Line, they could be employed to 
reinforce the Regular Army, either by units or by complete 
divisions, as they became ready. 


It had been Mr. Haldane's intention to make the County 
Associations the medium for indefinite expansion of the 
forces in case of need. The rough plans for such expansion 
were actually blocked out, some of the Associations possess- 
ing, in whole or in part, the machinery for carrying the 
p^an into effect. But the scheme had not yet received 
statutory sanction, and had not even been worked out in 
detaJ Meanwhile, the County Associations justified Mr. 
Haldai e's faith in them, and their zeal and ability were of 
the utmost value to the War Office and the country. 


The first textbook issued after the South African War 
for the instruction of the army was " Combined Training," 
dated 1902, written by the late Colonel G. F. R. Hender- 
son. This, in 1905, became Part I. of "Field Service 
Regulations." In 1909 the book was superseded by the 
issue of " Field Service Regulations Part I. (Operations)," 
and " Part II. (Organization and Administration) " was 
published for the first time. These manuals dealt with the 
general principles governing the employment of the army 
in war. 

Individual training that is, the physical training, 
including route marching, bayonet fighting, musketry, 
signalling, scouting, and generally the education of the 
individual in his duties and the use of his arms was 
carried on during the winter ; this gave place in the spring 
to the training by units, first of squadrons, companies and 
batteries, next of cavalry regiments, infantry battalions 
and artillery brigades ; next of cavalry and infantry 
brigades, first alone and then in conjunction with other 
arms ; and next of divisions ; the whole culminating in 
inter-divisional exercises and army manoeuvres. 

The great feature of the training for the attack and 
counter-attack was combination of fire and movement. 
Ground was gained as the enemy was approached by rushes 
of portions of a battalion, company or platoon, under cover 
of the fire of the remainder and of the artillery. By this 
procedure, a strong firing line was built up some 200 yards 
from the enemy ; when fire superiority had been attained 
an assault was delivered. An attacking force was divided 
into firing line and supports, with local reserves, and the 
advance was often made in parallel lines in extended order ; 
but the form was essentially elastic and adapted to the 


ground, with the definite objects of maintaining control, 
utilizing such cover as was available, and presenting as 
difficult a target as possible to the enemy. 1 

Mobilization was regularly practised. Every winter 
certain units were brought up to war establishment in the 
prescribed manner, the reservists and horses required to 
complete them being represented by men and animals f^om 
other units. In 1910 one of the two Aldershot divisions 
was mobilized at the expense of the other and by volant eers 
from the 1st Class Army Reserve, and so was abK to take 
part in the manoeuvres at war numbers. Not on*y fighting 
units, but also such branches as the Ordnance and the 
Postal Service were represented at manoeuvres, and their 
work was carried on under conditions approximating to 
those of active service. 

All these reforms were pushed forward under the in- 
evitable disadvantages which have ever hampered the 
British Army. Recruits were dribbling in at all tinier of 
the year. Trained instructors were being withdrawn for 
attachment to the auxiliary forces, and drafts of trained 
men were constantly leaving their battalions during the 
autumn and winter for India. The commanders, again, 
could never tell whether their next campaign might not be 
fought in the snows of the Himalayas, the swamps and 
bush of Africa or the deserts of Egypt a campaign in 
Europe hardly entered into their calculations. It was 
practically impossible for the General Staff to keep abreast 
of the detailed information required as to possible theatres 
of war. Nevertheless, British regimental officers, to use 
their own expression, " carried on," although confronted 
with two changes uncongenial to many of the older men 
among them : the cavalry was trained to an increasing 
extent in the work of mounted infantry, and was armed 
with a rifle instead of a carbine ; and the Regular infantry 
battalions were organized into four companies instead of 

In every respect the Expeditionary Force of 1914 was 
incomparably the best trained, best organized, and best 

1 The soundness of the principle of the combination of fire and move- 
ment was abundantly proved during the war ; but, as experience was 
gained, it was found that there was no role for " supports " of the kind 
laid down in the pre-war manuals ; reinforcing a line already stopped 
by casualties merely meant increasing losses without corresponding gain ; 
and it became apparent that the proper employment of " local reserves " 
was to exploit local successes, and to fill defensively gaps in an attacking 
line that had been brought to a standstill. 


equipped British Army that ever went forth to war. 1 
Except in the matter of co-operation between aeroplanes 
and artillery, and use of machine guns, its training would 
stand comparison in all respects with that of the Germans. 2 
Where it fell short of our enemies was first and foremost 
in numbers ; so that, though not " contemptible," it was 
almost negligible in comparison with continental armies 
even of the smaller States. 3 In heavy guns and howitzers, 
high-explosive shell, trench mortars, hand-grenades, 4 and 
much of the subsidiary material required for siege and 
trench warfare, it was almost wholly deficient. Further, 
no steps had been taken to instruct the army in a know- 
ledge of the probable theatre of war or of the German 
army, except by the publication of a handbook of the army 
and of annual reports on manoeuvres and military changes. 
Exactly the same, however, was done in the case of the 
armies of all foreign States. The study of German military 
organization and methods was specifically forbidden at 
war games, staff tours, and intelligence classes, which would 
have provided the best opportunities for such instruction. 

The National Reserve 

The last of the preparations for defence that requires 
mention here is the formation of the National Reserve, 
initiated by private enterprise in August 1910 with the 
approval of the Secretary of State for War and the Army 
Council. Its object was to register and organize all officers 

1 For the Order of Battle and organization of the British Expeditionary 
Force, see Appendices 1 and 2. 

2 The German General Staff in 1912 considered it an " ebenbiirtiger 
Gegner " man for man as good as their own. (Von Kuhl, " Der deutsche 
Generalstab," p. 87.) 

3 The following, which is translated from the German Admiralty 
Staff's " Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918 : Nordsee," Bd. i. p. 82, is of 
interest in this connection : 

" The Supreme Command made no demands whatever on the Navy to 
stop or delay the British transports. On the contrary, it seemed not to 
place much value on the action of the efficient (wertvoll) but numerically 
weak Expeditionary Corps. In any case, when at the beginning of the 
war Frigate-Captain Heydel of the Operations Section was sent by the 
Admiralty to inquire if the Army laid stress on the interruption of the 
transport of troops, the Chief of the General Staff personally replied that 
the Navy should not allow the operations that it would otherwise carry 
out to be interfered with on this account ; it would even be of advantage 
if the Armies in the West could settle with the 160,000 English at the 
same time as the French and Belgians. His point of view was shared by 
many during the favourable commencement of the offensive in the West. 

4 There was a service hand-grenade, but it was a complicated one, with 
a long shaft, that proved unsuitable in trench warfare ; it cost !':!: 3. 


and men who had served in and left any of the military or 
naval forces of the Crown, with a view to increasing the 
military strength of the country in the event of imminent 
national danger. The National Reserve was divided into 
two classes : I one to reinforce existing units of the 
Regular Army, and the other to fill up vacancies in the 
Territorial Force, to strengthen garrisons, guard vulner- 
able points, or perform any other necessary military duties 
either as specialists or fighting men. By 1914, the National 
Reserve numbered about 350,000. On mobilization many 
of the members rejoined military and naval service ; the 
remainder formed eventually the nucleus of the Royal 
Defence Corps. 

Imperial Military Forces 

In 1907 there was a conference of Dominion Premiers 
in London, and the opportunity was seized to make the 
General Staff an Imperial one. Britain offered to train 
officers of the Overseas Dominions at the Staff Colleges, 
and to send out staff officers of her own as servants of the 
Dominion Governments. It was urged that there should 
be in all the forces of the Empire uniformity of armament 
and organization. The Dominions cordially welcomed 
these proposals. The Imperial General Staff was formed 
and unity of organization was established. The Dominions 
reserved to themselves the right of deciding whether to 
participate with their forces in the event of hostilities 
outside their own territories. 

The Indian Forces 

In India, the reorganization of the army on modern 
lines into nine divisions, six cavalry brigades and a certain 
number of independent brigades by Lord Kitchener in 
1903, was designed to meet the Russian menace and make 
India independent of assistance from overseas for .twelve 
months. As a consequence of the Anglo-Russian Agree- 
ment in 1907, and the state of Indian finances, this re- 
organization was never completed. The " Army in India 
Committee " of 1912-13 recommended that the field army 
should consist of seven divisions, five cavalry brigades 
and certain army troops, a force sufficient to deal with 
Afghanistan and the mountain tribes combined, till rein- 

1 See " National Reserve Regulations," issued with Special Army 
Order, March 7, 1913. 


forcements could arrive. This was the authorized Field 
Army when war broke out in 1914, but even this had not 
been provided with all its mobilization equipment. No 
troops were maintained for the specific purpose of war 
outside the Indian sphere. Not till August 1913 was the 
Government of India invited to consider the extent to 
which India would be prepared to co-operate with the 
Imperial Forces in the event of a serious war between 
Britain and an European enemy. It was agreed that 
the Army Council might count upon two possibly three 
divisions and one cavalry brigade. Actually in 1914, 
as will be seen, two infantry divisions and two cavalry 
divisions were sent to France, a division to the Persian 
Gulf, the equivalent of the infantry of two divisions to 
Egypt, besides minor detachments, and all but eight 
battalions of British infantry were withdrawn from India, 
their places being filled by British Territorial troops. 
But no measures were taken to make India the Eastern 
military base of the British Empire by the provision of 
arsenals and the development of the industrial resources 
of the country for war purposes, except in certain minor 
items. 1 

The Committee of Imperial Defence 

The supreme direction of war in England, which 
originally lay in the sovereign, and was actually exercised 
by William III., passed after that monarch's death to the 
principal Ministers, and has remained with the Cabinet, or 
a group within the Cabinet, ever since. Up to 1904, no 
precedent had ever been set for the formation of a Council 
of War or of any standing advisory body for the Cabinet 
in naval and military matters in view of the outbreak 
of war. 

In 1895, however, a Defence Committee of the Cabinet 
was formed which, after some changes in 1902, was finally 
turned by Mr. Balfour in 1904 into the Committee of 
Imperial Defence. It was then placed under the direct 
control of the Prime Minister ; and a Secretariat was pro- 
vided to record its deliberations and decisions, to collect 
information, to outline plans necessary to meet certain 
contingencies, and to ensure continuity of policy. 

Much good work was done by the Committee in various 

1 Field artillery ammunition and rifles in small quantities, small-arm 
ammunition, certain vehicles, boots, saddles, harness. 


directions. Full measures were thought out in 1909 for 
counteracting any hostile system of espionage and sabotage, 
the Official Secrets Act being amended in 1911 to give the 
Government greater powers. An amendment of the Army 
Act in 1909 also gave authority to billet troops in time of 
emergency. Lastly, the essential steps to be taken im- 
mediately upon the outbreak of war were all of them 
studied exhaustively, and the distribution of the con- 
sequent duties among the various departments, and among 
even individual officials, was arranged in the minutest 
detail, so that there should be no delay and no confusion. 
The results of these preparations, and the regulations 
finally laid down, were embodied in a " War-book," and 
all essential documents were prepared beforehand, so that 
they might be signed instantly, the very room in which 
the signature should take place being fixed, and a plan 
showing its exact position attached to the documents. 

Altogether, Britain never yet entered upon any war 
with anything approaching such forwardness and fore- 
thought in the preparation of the scanty military resources 
at the disposal of the War Office. The Committee of 
Imperial Defence was still, however, only an advisory body 
without administrative or executive functions. 

From 1911 onward the French and British Staffs had 
worked out in detail a scheme for the landing of the Ex- 
peditionary Force in France, and for its concentration in 
the area Maubeuge Le Cateau Hirson, but, though there 
was an " obligation of honour," there was no definite 
undertaking to send the whole or any part of this force 
to any particular point, or, in fact, anywhere at all. 


(See Sketch 1 ; Maps 1 & 2) 

For France the problem of defence against her eastern 
neighbour was a very difficult one. The frontier had no 
natural protection, and the population of France was not 
only smaller than Germany's, but steadily sinking lower 
in comparison. She first sought to assist the solution of 
the problem by creating great fortified regions along her 
borders, alternating with selected gaps. Thus, from the 
Swiss frontier to Epinal there were roughly forty miles of 
fortification ; from Epinal to Toul a space of forty miles 


the well-known Trouee de Charmes was left undefended ; 
from Toul to Verdun was another forty miles of fortifica- 
tion ; and from Verdun to the Belgian frontier another 
gap of thirty miles. In second line were the second-class 
fortresses of Besanon, Dijon, Langres, Rheims, and Laon ; 
and in rear of them again the entrenched camps of Lyons 
and Paris. There were no modern fortifications on the 
Franco-Belgian frontier, but La Fere, Maubeuge, and Lille 
were defended by old-fashioned detached forts. 

The steadily aggressive attitude of Germany justified 
the uneasiness of France. In 1887 Germany formed a 
Triple Alliance with Austria and Italy. In 1890 France 
responded by an Alliance with Russia. In 1891 Germany 
emphasized her hostile bearing by renewing the Triple 
Alliance ; and in 1899 she rejected the Tsar's proposal for 
a limitation of armaments. In 1905, 1911, and 1912 she 
made important additions to her army, raising its strength 
to twenty-five active corps, as against the fifteen with which 
she had taken the field in 1870 ; and behind these twenty- 
five she had nearly an equal number of Reserve corps. 1 On 
30th June 1913 the total number of men with the colours 
in peace was raised from 711,000 to 856,000 ; 2 this not 
only made the army the readier for an attaque brusquee, 
so much dreaded by the French, but assured a substantial 
corresponding increase in the effectives of reserve forma- 

France could only reply by reimposing the term of 
three years with the colours, which in 1905 she had reduced 
to two years. This signified an augmentation of 220,000 
men to her peace strength. But, even so, France had at 
the outbreak of war, roughly speaking, only three millions 
and a half of trained men, whereas Germany had over four 
millions ; 3 and, moreover, Germany's Reserve formations 
were more completely organized than those of the 

The French Army in peace was composed of ten cavalry 
divisions ; twenty-one army corps, each corps area also 

1 On 2nd August 1914 Germany mobilized 14 Reserve corps, 4 Reserve 
divisions and 3 Reserve brigades ; on 16th August the formation of 6 new 
Reserve corps and 1 new Reserve division was ordered. 

2 See p. 21. 

3 The figure given since the war by various German authorities is 
3,891,000. They attempt to show France had more by including the 
coloured troops in her colonies, but even with these the total French 
mobilizable strength was only 3,683,000 (Pedoya's "Commission de 
1'Armee," p. 203, etc.). 


furnishing in war a Reserve division * and certain Territorial 
brigades ; and a Colonial Corps. 

On mobilization, according to the plan in force in 
1914, 2 the forces formed five Armies, with seven divisions 
of cavalry, and a cavalry corps of three divisions. The 
Reserve divisions were grouped into pairs or threes, and 
allotted either to Armies or defences, or kept at the disposal 
of General Headquarters. 8 

The zones of concentration selected in peace for 
Map 2. the five Armies were, commencing as usual on the 
right : 

First Army (General Dubail) Region of Epinal. 

Second Army (General de Castelnau) Region of Nancy. 

Third Army (General Ruffey) Region of Verdun. 

Fifth Army (General Lanrezac) Between Verdun (exclusive) 

and Mezieres, with a detachment east of the Meuse. 
Fourth Army (General de Langle de Gary) In general reserve 

in region Sainte Menehould Commercy. 
On either flank was a group of Reserve divisions : 

On the right a group of four Reserve divisions Region 
of Belfort. 

On the left a group of three Reserve divisions (General 
Valabregue) Vervins. 

The French Staff in choosing the areas of concentration 
were in face of the following facts. At Metz there was an 
immense entrenched camp touching the frontier, and con- 
nected by four main lines of railway with the heart of 
Germany. From this a sudden blow the attaque brusquee 
could be easily struck with all the force of perfect 
organization ; and it was imperative to take measures to 
parry it. On the other hand, the German school of strategy 
favoured envelopment from one or both flanks. This in a 
war with France signified, indeed, violation either of 
Belgian or of Swiss neutrality, or of both ; but Germany 
was not likely to be squeamish about such matters. Such 
violation might not go beyond a peaceable passage of 
troops across a corner of the neutral territory, yet still 
might suffice for the aggressor's purpose of turning a 

1 The Reserve divisions were numbered by adding 50 to the army 
corps number up to the 71st : thus the I. Corps area provided the 51st 
Reserve division. The XIX. Corps was in Algeria. 

2 Known as No. 17 ; the text is given in Appendix 9. 

3 For the Order of Battle and organization of the French Armies see 
Appendices 3 and 4. 


To meet menaces so different in kind as direct attack 
in the centre and envelopment on the flanks, the French 
General Staff decided to take the offensive and to con- 
centrate facing the Eastern frontier, trusting to fortifica- 
tions and to covering troops to gain sufficient time to 
move the mass of the army elsewhere if required. It was 
intended to attack as soon as possible with all forces 
united : the First and Second Armies south of Metz, and 
the Fifth north of it ; the Third Army was to connect 
these two main attacks and arrange for the investment of 
Metz as they progressed. The employment of the Fourth 
Army depended on the action of the enemy ; if the Germans 
moved into Luxembourg and Belgium, it was to co-operate 
with the Fifth Army ; if the enemy merely covered the 
common frontier, it was to go to the support of the right 
attack. A detachment of the First Army (one corps 
and one cavalry division) was detailed in the plan to 
carry out a special operation on the extreme right in 
Alsace, with the object of holding any enemy forces 
which might attempt to advance on the western slopes 
of the Vosges, and of assisting in the removal of that 
part of the population which had remained faithful to 
France. It was hoped by the general offensive move- 
ment to dislocate the plans of the enemy and wrest the 
initiative from him. 

No provision, it will be noticed, was made to meet an 
envelopment carried out through Belgium west of the 
Meuse, nor to cover the gap between the western flank of 
the Fifth Army and the sea, in which there were only local 
Territorial troops and a few old fortresses incapable of 
offering serious resistance to any invader. The informa- 
tion at the disposal of the French General Staff appeared 
to indicate that the Germans would attack from Metz, and 
had not sufficient troops to extend their front west of the 
Meuse. Beyond arranging for an alternative concentration 
of the Fourth and Fifth Armies should the enemy enter 
Luxembourg and Belgium, there was no preparation 
against a wide enveloping movement. 

On mobilization, General Joffre, vice-president du Con- 
seil superieur de la guerre et chef de I'lStat Major General, 
was appointed Commandant en Chef of the French Armies, 
with General Belin as Chief of the Staff. 

The approximate strength of the Armies (with the 
Reserve divisions on the flanks included in the totals of 
the nearest Army) was, in round numbers, after certain 

VOL. i c 


exchanges had taken place (viz. the transfer of two corps 
and two Reserve divisions from Fifth Army to Fourth, of 
one corps from Second to Fifth, etc.) : 1 

First Army . . 256,000 men 

Second Army . . 200,000 

Third Army . . 168,000 

Fourth Army . . 193,000 

Fifth Army . . 254,000 

1,071,000 men 

(See Sketch 1 ; Map 2) 

In 1914 the Belgian Army consisted of a Field Army 
organized in six divisions and a cavalry division, and 
fortress troops which formed the garrisons of Antwerp, 
Lie*ge and Namur. Antwerp was the great fortress of 
Belgium, the final refuge and rallying point of her forces 
and population in case of invasion by a powerful enemy. 
Its defences originally consisted of a strong enceinte, i.e. 
a continuous inner ring of fortification, and a girdle of 
forts, some two miles from the town, finished in 1868. 
Though a second girdle of forts and redoubts outside the 
first had been gradually added from 1882 onwards, the line 
was incomplete, there were several gaps and intervals in 
it, and it was on the average only some eight miles from 
the town, an altogether insufficient distance under modern 
conditions. Nor was the construction of the forts, although 
improvements were in progress, capable of resisting modern 
heavy artillery ; and notwithstanding that the guns and 
flanking weapons were protected by armour, the fact that 
they were inside the forts, which were conspicuously upstand- 
ing, and not in well concealed batteries outside, made them 
easy targets. The same remarks as regards construction 
apply to the defences of Liege and Namur ; these fortresses 
were " barrier forts and bridgeheads " on the Meuse ; 

1 See footnote, p. 39. 

8 The details of the operations of the Belgian Army are taken from 
the official account : " L' Action de PArmee Beige. Periode du 31 juillet 
au 31 decembre 1914," which has since been translated as " Military 
" Operations of Belgium. Report compiled by the Belgian General Staff 
" for the period July 31st to December 31st, 1914" (London, Collingridge, 
Is. net). For the Order of Battle see Appendix 5. 


they constituted the first line of Belgium's resistance, and 
were designed to guard the approaches into Belgium from 
the east and south-east, and hinder any enemy from cross- 
ing the Meuse either from France into Germany or Ger- 
many into France. They were never intended to be 
defended a entrance and depended on field troops for the 
defence of the intervals between the forts. At Huy on 
the Meuse between Namur and Liege there was an ancient 
fort, which at best might secure sufficient time for the 
destruction of the railway bridges and tunnel there. 

The reorganization of the Belgian Army authorized by 
the Government in 1912, had barely begun to take effect. In 
accordance with this a force of 350,000 men was to be formed : 
150,000 for the Field Army, 130,000 for the fortress garri- 
sons, and 70,000 for reserve and auxiliary troops. But 
these numbers would not in the ordinary course have been 
available until 1926. Actually in August 1914 only 
117,000 could be mobilized for the Field Army, and a 
smaller proportion for the other categories. 

The six divisions were stationed in peace so that at 
short notice they could quickly confront any enemy, were 
he Germany, France, Great Britain or Holland : 

1st Division around Ghent, 

2nd Division, Antwerp, 

3rd Division around Liege, 

4th Division, Namur and Charleroi, 

5th Division around Mons, 

6th Division, Brussels, 

Cavalry Division, Brussels. 

Thus the 1st Division faced England ; the 3rd, Germany ; 
the 4th and 5th, France ; and they were intended to act 
as general advanced guards as occasion arose and gain 
time for the movements of the other divisions to the 
threatened area. 

On the ordinary peace footing only part of the recruit 
contingent was with the colours, so that in case of danger 
of war, the Belgian Army had first to recall men on un- 
limited leave, in order to raise its forces to " reinforced 
peace establishment," the ordinary strength of the units of 
the Continental Powers, and then to complete the numbers 
by mobilizing reservists. Thus not only was Belgium 
normally less ready than most nations, but she was in the 
throes of reorganization, and could not put into the field 
even as many men as the British Regular Army. 



(See Plate 1) 

From 1815 to 1860, the Prussian Army had practically 
remained stationary in numbers, with a peace strength of 
150,000 men formed in eight Army Corps, maintained by 
a yearly contingent of 40,000 recruits, who served three 
years with the colours. One of the first acts of Wilhelm I. 
on coming to the throne in January 1860 was, in opposition 
to the wishes of his Legislature, to raise the annual con- 
tingent to 63,000, and the peace strength to 215,000. 
From thence onwards there was a steady increase of the 
military forces. 

The war of 1866 made Prussia head of the North 
German Confederation, whilst Hesse-Darmstadt, Wiirt- 
temburg, Bavaria and Baden were bound to place their 
armies at the disposal of Prussia in time of war. In 1870, 
in addition to her original eight corps, she was able after 
arrangements with the other States to put into the field 
the Guard, IX., X. (Hanoverian), XI., and XII. (Saxon), 
and /. and II. Bavarian Corps, and eventually the XIII. 
(Wurttemburg) and XIV. (Baden), with a war-strength of 
roughly 950,000. 

The formation of the German Empire in 1871 made 
expansion still easier, for by the Constitution one per cent 
of the population could be in training under arms. The 
peace strengths sanctioned (which did not include officers 
and one-year volunteers) were : 

1874 . . . 401,659 

1881 . . . 427,274 

1887 . . . 468,409 

1890 . . . 486,983 (20 corps) 

1893 . . . 479,229 and 77,864 N.C.O.'s (and two 

years' service introduced for 
all, except for horserartillery 
and cavalry) 

1899 . . . 495,500 (exclusive of N.C.O.'s) 

1911 . . . 509,839 (exclusive of N.C.O.'s ; gradu- 

ally reached from 1905 on- 

1912 . . . 544,211 (exclusive of N.C.O.'s) 

1913 . . . 640,782 

1 For the Order of Battle and organization of the German Forces see 
Appendices 6 and 7. 


In 1914, adding 36,000 officers, 110,000 N.C.O.'s, 18,000 
one-year volunteers and 25,000 supernumerary recruits, 
the total number with the colours was about 850,000. 

The approximate mobilizable strength was, in round 
figures : 

Trained officers and men . . . 4,300,000 
Partially trained ..... 100,000 
Untrained ...... 5,500,000 


The Army was organized into 25 Active army corps Plate i. 
(50 divisions) the Guard, I. to XXI., and I., //., III. 
Bavarian ; and in each army corps district organization 
was provided to form certain Reserve divisions (32 J, 1 
Ersatz divisions (7), Landwehr brigades and regiments 
(equivalent to 16 divisions), from the supernumeraries in 
the depots. There were also 11 cavalry divisions. 

The plan on which this great force would be used on 
the Eastern and Western fronts could only be surmised. 
It will, so far as it is known, be given later 2 after the 
opening moves of the campaign have been developed and 


Service in the German Army was divided into : 
service in the Active (or Standing) Army (two years, 
but three in the cavalry and horse artillery) ; service 
in the Reserve (five years, but four in the cavalry and 
horse artillery) ; service in the Landwehr (eleven years). 
The Landsturm included youths between 17 and 20, too 
young for service in the Army, and trained and untrained 
men between 39 and 45, who were thus over the ordinary 
military age. 

The original Reserve corps which took part in the August 
offensive were formed mainly of Reserve men super- 
numerary to the requirements of the Active Army, with 
some Landwehr ; but the Guard Reserve Corps contained 
an active division, and others, e.g. the V '., VI., VII. and 
IX., each contained an active brigade, as the active corps 
of these numbers had each in peace time an extra brigade ; 
and others had similarly an active regiment. Soon after 

1 See footnote, p. 15. 2 See p. 33. ' 


declaration of war, additional Reserve divisions and corps 
were built up of volunteers (mainly youths under full 
military age and men not yet called up, etc.), with a sub- 
stantial nucleus of about 25 per cent of trained men of 
the older classes. 1 

In peace the Ersatz Reserve consisted of men fit and 
liable for military service, but not called up for training 
because they were supernumerary to the annual con- 
tingents, or for family reasons, or on account of minor 
defects, or because they were temporarily unfit. It was 
originally intended to provide men to fill up the ranks 
of the Active Army and form its depots on mobilization. 
In 1914, however, with the help of fully-trained super- 
numerary officers, N.C.O.'s and men of the Reserve and 
Landwehr, it was formed into units, brigades and divisions. 

The Landwehr units were formed of men who had com- 
pleted seven years with the Active Army and Reserve, and 
were under 39 years of age. 

As the war went on, the significance of the various 
classifications largely disappeared, and Active, Ersatz, 
Reserve and Landwehr divisions contained men of all 

i " Ypres 1914," p. 5. 


(See Sketch 1 ; Map 2) 

THE story of the negotiations and of the diplomatic corre- 
spondence and conversations which took place after the 
assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria 
and his Consort at Serajevo on the 28th June 1914 and 
before the outbreak of war, is available in an official 
narrative. 1 In this the efforts of the British Government 

1 " The Outbreak of the War 1914-1918 : A Narrative based mainly 
on British Official Documents," by Professor Sir Charles Oman. Published 
by H.M. Stationery Office, Price 2s. 6d. 

Since this book was written, some further information with regard to 
the Potsdam Conference of the 5th and 6th July 1914 has been published in 
" Stenographische Berichte uber die offentlichen Verhandlungen des Unter- 
" suchungsausschusses der verfassunggebenden deutschen National ver- 
" sammlung," the shorthand reports of the Commission ordered by the 
German National Assembly to take evidence on matters affecting critical 
periods of the war. One of the terms of reference was : " It is to be 
" ascertained what political and military proceedings took place in Berlin 
" or Potsdam on the 5th and 6th July 1914." 

In the evidence there given, General von Falkenhayn states that the 
Kaiser, on the afternoon of the 5th, warned him that the Army should be 
ready for all emergencies. Admiral Capelle and Admiral Behnke, tempor- 
ary Chief of the Staff, Admiralty, were similarly warned ; these two 
officers then arranged to make such " intellectual preparations " (intel- 
lektuele Vorbereitungen) as were possible without arousing suspicion. 
Admiral Behnke then describes what was done : the mobilization orders, 
etc., were carefully gone through and got ready, steps were taken for the 
immediate preparation of ships and auxiliary vessels, all ships filled up 
with fuel, the movements of ships were arranged in accordance with the 
situation, etc. 

No evidence of the exact military measures taken was asked for or 
given at the Commission. An article in the "Revue Militaire Generate" 
of September 1919, however, gives a large number of extracts from captured 
German diaries and interrogations of prisoners which tend to shew that 
mobilization orders were issued secretly some days before the 31st July ; men 
on leave were recalled, the brigades on the frontiers intended for the surprise 
of Liege were brought up to war strength by the recall of reservists, and 
Landsturm battalions were formed on 31st July to replace active troops in 
guarding the frontier, railways, etc. There would thus seem no room for 
doubt that in a variety of ways Germany gained a most valuable start 
of several days on her opponents. 



27-31 July to bring about mediation and their determination to take 
1914. no s tep that would assist to precipitate war are clearly 
explained. It is therefore unnecessary here to allude to 
diplomatic events, except to show how the military pre- 
parations were affected by them. 

On the 27th July, the British Government judged the 
situation to be sufficiently serious to warrant them in 
countermanding the dispersal, then in progress, of the 
Home Fleets at the end of the exercises at sea which had 
followed a test mobilization. At 5 P.M. on the 28th, the 
First Fleet was ordered to proceed to its preliminary war 
station in the North ; * on the 29th, the Government 
further, at 2 P.M., ordered the precautionary measures 
arranged by the General Staff to meet an immediate 
prospect of war, to be put in force. These affected the 
Regular troops only, and included the recall of officers 
and men on leave and furlough, and the manning of the 
coast defences. 

The Belgian Government decided to place the Army 
upon its " reinforced peace footing." 2 

On the same day, the 29th, the British Ambassador 
at Berlin was asked by the Chancellor to give assurance 
of England's neutrality if Russia should attack Austria 
and an European conflagration ensued. To this signifi- 
cant enquiry Sir Edward Grey, the Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, responded on the 30th by a refusal to entertain 
the proposal. Russia on that day issued orders for the 
mobilization of her four Southern Armies; and Germany 
threatened that she would mobilize unless Russia ceased. 
News was also received of the declaration of war by 
Austria-Hungary against Serbia and of the bombardment 
of Belgrade. 

On the 31st July, Austria and Russia decreed the full 
mobilization of their forces, whereupon Germany made 
a formal proclamation of " imminent danger of war " 
(drohende Kriegsgefahr), which meant practically the in- 
troduction of Martial Law and the suspension of the usual 
civil rights, and permitted the calling to the colours of six 
classes of the Reserve ; at the same time she presented an 
ultimatum to the effect that, unless Russia ceased mobiliza- 
tion within twelve hours, she herself would mobilize upon 
both frontiers. Significantly enough, Turkey also ordered 

1 The naval precautions taken will be found fully described in " The 
History of the War : Naval Operations," vol. i., by Sir Julian Corbett. 

2 See p. 19. 


mobilization upon this day. 1 Sir Edward Grey, mean- 1 Aug. 
while, sent an identic request to Germany and France 
to enquire whether they would respect Belgian neutrality. 
On the 31st July France answered with an unequivocal 
affirmative. Germany, however, sent only an evasive 
reply ; and on the 1st August both France and Germany 
ordered general mobilization. 

The beginning of mobilization in France raised a serious 
question for Great Britain. There was, it is true, no 
definite agreement nor understanding that she should send 
assistance to France, and the British Government was free 
to decide, untrammelled, for peace or war. But a scheme 
had been elaborated, in the event of certain contingencies, 
between the General Staffs of the two countries ; and an 
essential point in this scheme was that the first movement 
of the British advanced parties, stores and so forth, should 
begin on the first day of mobilization. Assuming this coin- 
cidence of movement and mobilization, it was reckoned 
that six divisions or four, if six could not be spared 
one cavalry division and one cavalry brigade could be 
transported from Great Britain to concentration areas 
between Avesnes and Le Cateau, and would be ready to 
advance from them on the sixteenth day after the order for 
mobilization had been issued. 

That the British mobilization, if it should take place at 
all, would be later than the French was now obvious. The 
British General Staff therefore suggested that measures 
might be taken to ensure that, if mobilization should come 
after all, movement to France of the advanced parties, 
which could be warned at once, should be simultaneous 
with the issue of the order for it. Another important 
measure was the guarding of the lines of railway to the 
ports of embarkation. This duty had been assigned to 
certain units of the Territorial Force ; but these were 
about to proceed to camp for their annual training ; and, 
unless the orders for that training were cancelled, there 
might be delay in the despatch of the Expeditionary Force. 
The Government considered, however, that the counter- 
manding of the orders for Territorial training would be 
construed as not less menacing than the order for mobiliza- 
tion itself ; and they shrank from any measure which might 
seem to extinguish the last hope of peace. 

At 12 noon on the 1st August, the German ultimatum 
to Russia expired, and a general conflagration became in- 

1 The " 1st day of mobilization" was the 3rd August. 


2 Aug. evitable. 1 The Cabinet at 2 P.M. on the 2nd cancelled the 
1914. orders for Territorial training and at 6 P.M. those for the 
manoeuvres of the Army, but still issued no orders for 
mobilization. The Royal Navy was quite ready for active 
service ; and the French Ambassador was assured that, 
if the German Fleet should enter the North Sea or the 
Channel with hostile designs against France, the British 
Fleet would give France its protection. Beyond this con- 
ditional promise of naval intervention the Cabinet would 
not go without consulting Parliament. Parliament was 
consulted on the following day, the 3rd August ; but in 
the meanwhile a most momentous event had occurred. 
Sketch 1. At seven o'clock in the evening of the 2nd the German 
Map 2. Minister at Brussels had presented a Note to the Belgian 
Government, requesting a reply within twelve hours. This 
Note had been drawn up by the Great General Staff as early 
as 26th July, and despatched under seal to the German 
Minister at Brussels on the 29th, with orders that it was 
not to be opened pending further instructions. It set forth 
that the German Government had certain intelligence of the 
intention of the French forces to march on the Meuse by 
Givet and Namur, and, in view of this attack, requested 
free and unresisted ingress for the German troops into 
Belgian territory. The Belgian Government replied that 
they would repel any attempt either of France or Germany 
upon Belgium ; and meanwhile declined the help of France 
against any German encroachment until they should have 
made formal appeal to the Powers, Prussia among them, 
that had guaranteed Belgian neutrality. Faithful to 
the obligations imposed upon her by treaty, Belgium had 
already on the 1st August ordered her forces to be mobilized, 
and was preparing to resist violation of her territory from 
any quarter whatsoever. 

Other important events on the 2nd August were that 
German troops crossed the Polish frontier, broke also into 
France at four different points, and entered the territory 
of Luxembourg. 2 

Sir Edward Grey had no accurate information as to the 

1 The German declaration of war was delivered by the Ambassador at 
Petrograd, Count Pourtales, at 7 P.M. on the 1st August ; he at the same 
time demanded his passports (Kautsky's "Die deutsche Dokumente zum 
Kriegsausbruch," vol. iii. pp. 50 and 83, which is confirmed by the Russian 
Orange Book). 

2 By the treaty of 1867 Prussia guaranteed the perpetual neutrality of 
Luxembourg ; by the Convention of 1902 Germany re-insured the neutrality 
and stipulated that the railways in the Grand Duchy which she exploited 
should not be used for the transport of her troops. 


exact nature of the German ultimatum to Belgium when he 3 Aug. 
met the House of Commons on the 3rd August. He was 1914 - 
aware, however, of the crude fact that an ultimatum had 
been tendered, and, whilst coming down to the House, he 
had been informed that King Albert had telegraphed to 
King George invoking England's diplomatic intervention 
to safeguard the integrity of Belgium. He presented, in 
due order, the course of action he had pursued and the 
motives dictating it. The House of Commons, as it 
followed him, applauded his decision not to commit the 
country to armed intervention on account of the Serbian 
quarrel, but approved the conditional promise of the Fleet's 
aid to France, and grew enthusiastic when it heard that 
England would be true to her engagements to uphold the 
integrity of Belgium. 

No resolution followed upon the speech of the Secretary 
of State for Foreign Affairs. After the adjournment which 
followed it, towards 7 P.M., he was able to read to the 
House full information, received from the Belgian Legation, 
of the German Note that had been presented in Brussels. 
It left no doubt that a German attack was about to take 
place, if indeed it had not begun. 

The immediate measures taken were to announce that 
a moratorium would be proclaimed and that the Govern- 
ment would undertake the responsibility of maritime 
insurance. The Territorial Force was embodied and the 
Naval Reserves were called out. It was now clear that our 
mobilization must take place at least three days later than 
the French, and that even so movement could not be 
simultaneous with it. The Government, however, reckoned 
that by this delay they had gained more than they had lost 
by securing the unanimity, or approximate unanimity, of 
the nation and the benevolence of neutrals. 

On the 3rd August, at 6.45 P.M., Germany declared war 
on France, making alleged violation of her frontier by 
patrols and of her territory by aviators a pretext. 1 Italy, 
though a member of the Triple Alliance, declared that 
she would maintain her neutrality in the impending 

Meanwhile Germany, being unhampered by moral con- 
siderations, completed her arrangements for the invasion 
of Belgium. On the morning of the 4th August, she 
declared war on Belgium, and two of her cavalry divisions 

1 These allegations have since been admitted to have been false. See 
M. Poincare's " The Origins of the War," pp. 3 and 4. 


4-6 Aug. passed the frontier ; and in the afternoon the heads of 
1914. infantry columns also entered Belgium. 

Early in the afternoon of the 4th August Sir Edward 
Grey telegraphed to the British Ambassador at Berlin 
instructing him to ask for his passports if no satis- 
factory answer were given regarding the observation of 
Belgium's neutrality by 12 midnight (11 P.M. Greenwich 
mean time). At 4' P.M. the British Government gave 
orders for the mobilization of the Army. At 12.15 A.M. 
on the morning of the 5th August, the Foreign Office issued 
the following statement : 

44 Owing to the summary rejection by the German Govern- 
" ment of the request made by His Majesty's Government for 
" assurances that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, 
" His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin has received his passports 
" and His Majesty's Government have declared to the German 
" Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain 
" and Germany as from 11 P.M. on the 4th August." 

On the 5th and 6th August, two meetings, attended 
by the principal Ministers, including Lord Kitchener, who 
became Secretary of State for War on the 6th, and by the 
leading members of the Staffs of the Navy and Army of 
Britain, were assembled to consider the conduct of the war. 
The exact state of affairs at the moment was that Great 
Britain, France and Russia were at war with Germany ; 
that Belgium had been wantonly attacked but was making 
a better defence than had been expected ; that Austria was 
at war with Serbia only ; and that Italy was neutral. The 
main military questions to be decided were the employment 
and disposition of the Expeditionary Force, questions 
which were complicated by the delay in mobilization. It 
was determined first that the Force, less the 4th and 6th 
Divisions, should embark for the continent. In order to 
reduce the chance of a German landing in force interfering 
with this move, the Secretary of State decided that the 18th 
Infantry Brigade of the 6th Division, then at Lichfield, 
should move to Edinburgh, and two infantry brigades of 
the 4th Division should proceed to Cromer and York, in 
each case accompanied by some artillery. The llth 
Infantry Brigade of the 4th Division was already at 
Colchester. Five cyclist battalions and eventually the 
Yeomanry Mounted Division were also sent to the East 
coast. The rest of the 6th Division was to remain in 

Then came the final decision as to the destination 


of the Expeditionary Force. In view of the attack on 6 Aug. 
Belgium, had the British contingent been of a size adequate 1914< 
for independent operations of a substantial character, 
there would have been much to be said in favour of making 
Antwerp the base of its military operations ; but as it 
was so small, and as Antwerp, owing to part of the Schelde 
being Dutch territorial waters, would have to be reached 
overland after disembarkation at Ostend and other ports, 
and operations in the north might involve separation 
from the French, the suggestion was not followed. There 
remained the area, already considered with the French, 
namely, that around Le Cateau and Avesnes. Certain 
military opinion, however, was against a concentration 
of the British forces in any area in advance of Amiens. 
Finally, after discussion of the expansion of the army, 
it was agreed to leave the decision with our Allies, the 
French ; 1 and the council broke up after passing three 
resolutions, namely First, to embark ultimately five, 
but for the present only four of the divisions and the 
Cavalry Division of the Expeditionary Force, to commence 
on the 9th ; Secondly, to bring home the Imperial troops 
from South Africa ; Thirdly, to transport two Indian 
divisions to Egypt, but no further, and to urge the 
Government of India to send a division to capture Dar es 
Salaam in German East Africa. 

To Field - Marshal Sir John French, who had been 
selected to command the Expeditionary Force, special 
instructions as to his co-operation with the French were 
issued by the Secretary of State for War. 2 

Lieut. -General Sir Douglas Haig was appointed to com- 
mand the I. Corps ; Lieut.-General Sir James Grierson, the 
II. Corps ; Lieut.-General W. P. Pulteney, the III. Corps ; 
and Major-General E. Allenby, the Cavalry Division. The 
six divisions were to be commanded by Major-Generals 
S. H. Lomax, C. C. Munro, H. I. W. Hamilton, T. D'O. 
Snow, Sir C. Fergusson and J. L. Keir. 

1 According to Marechal Joffre's official report to a Parliamentary 
Commission d'Enquete : " The directions for concentration did not 

mention the place eventually reserved for the British Army. . . . Our 
military arrangements with England had in fact a character which was 
both secret and contingent (tventuel), and made it improper to mention 
them in such a document. ... In the event of its arrival, its employment 
was looked for at the place which should be logically reserved for it, on the 
left of the line of the French Armies, which it would thus prolong." " La 

Preparation de la Guerre et la conduite des operations." Par Le Marechal 

Joffre, p. 21. 

2 Appendix 8. 



(See Sketch 1 ; Maps 1 & 2) 

4 Aug. At 4 P.M. on the 4th August, as already stated, the order 
1914. f or mobilization of the Expeditionary and Territorial Forces 
was issued by the British Government. As a matter of 
fact, mobilization occurred at an extremely awkward 
moment, for the 3rd August had been Bank Holiday and, 
as usually is the case in the middle of summer, Territorial 
units were in the act of moving to various camps for their 
annual training when the orders cancelling it arrived. 
Hence arose the question whether the existing time-tables 
for concentration should stand, or whether the movements 
by railway should be postponed. The Cabinet decided for 
a short postponement, and gave orders, as already men- 
tioned, that the embarkation of the Expeditionary Force 
should not begin until the 9th, and for the present to 
hold back the 4th and 6th Divisions. Meantime the 
mobilization of the various units proceeded with the 
smoothness which had been anticipated. In all essentials 
everything went " according to plan " ; and even the 
task of collecting 120,000 horses was accomplished within 
twelve days. Embarkation was conducted upon the 
principle that every train-load should be a complete unit 
or subdivision of a unit, so that upon arrival in France 
after its passage, it should be self-contained, possessing 
transport enough to go straight into a rest-camp or into 
another train. The ports of embarkation were as follows : 

Great Britain 

Southampton for all troops. 
Avonmouth motor transport and petrol. 
Newhaven stores and supplies. 
Liverpool frozen meat and motor transport. 
Glasgow a few details. 


Cork If or the 5th and 6th Divisions. 

The ships were also divided into classes : (1) personnel 


ships ; (2) horse and vehicle ships ; (3) motor transport 4 Aug. 
ships ; (4) store ships. 1914. 

The ports of disembarkation in France were : Havre, sketch i. 
Rouen and Boulogne. Map 2. 

In the five days of greatest activity 1,800 special trains 
were run in Great Britain and Ireland ; on the busiest day 
of all, eighty trains, containing the equivalent of a division, 
were run into Southampton Docks ; the daily average of 
ships despatched was thirteen, with an average daily tonnage 
of about 52,000 tons gross. At first the transports were 
despatched singly as they were ready, both by day and by 
night, for, as yet, there was no menace by German sub- 
marines, and the measures taken by the Royal Navy 
gave absolute security. 1 Everything went regularly and 
smoothly, and the official programme was carried out to 
the letter ; but there was little margin to spare. 


Meanwhile the situation in Belgium and on the French 
frontier was developing rapidly. When during the night 
of the 3rd/4th August, it became clear that the Germans 
intended to advance through Belgium, with or without 
permission, the Belgian Staff at once took the measures 
necessary for the defence of their country's neutrality 
against Germany. The 3rd Division, supported by Map i. 
the fortifications of Liege, was to check the German 
advance ; and, under cover of the 3rd Division, the 1st, 
2nd, 5th, and 6th Divisions were to move to the line 
of the river Gette, the Cavalry Division and detach- 
ments from Li6ge and Namur screening the movement. 
This position covered a considerable part of Belgium, 
Brussels and the communications with Antwerp. The 
concentration began on the 4th August, and by the 
morning of the 6th the Belgian Army was in position 
two marches west of Liege, in the area Tirlemont 
(1st Division), Perwez (5th Division), Louvain (2nd 
Division), and Wavre (6th Division). 

On the morning of the 4th, when German cavalry 
crossed the Belgian frontier and moved upon Vise, north 
of Liege, it found the bridge over the Meuse broken, and 
the western bank held by Belgian troops. Two regiments 

1 See " Naval Operations," i. p. 72 et seq., and also footnote 3, p. 
11 above. 


5 Aug. were then pushed northward to Lixhe (3 miles north of 
1914. Vise), where they crossed the river by a ford. The 
Belgians, finding their left threatened, thereupon fell back 
on Liege. By evening the heads of six small German 
columns of all arms which had crossed the frontier were 
nearly two miles into Belgium. Further concentrations 
were also reported to the south ; and it became evident 
that a very large army threatened invasion along the lines 
of advance guarded by the fortress of Liege and by the 
3rd Division. 

(See Sketches 1 & 2 ; Maps 1, 2, & 5) 

On the 5th August, the Germans, having bridged the 
Meuse at Lixhe, pushed forward patrols to Tongres (about 
ten miles N.N.W. of Liege) ; and the commander-in-chief of 
the invading troops, General von Emmich, demanded free 
passage through Liege. This being at once refused, he 
attempted to seize the place by a coup de main. His troops 
consisted of six infantry brigades (said to be at peace 
strength) provided by the III., IV., VI., X., and XI. 
Corps, each with a squadron of cavalry, a battery of 
artillery, a battalion of J tiger (Rifles), and cyclists attached 
to it. Two of the six batteries had field guns, and the other 
four, field howitzers. Besides this force, General von 
Emmich had at his disposal two heavy mortar batteries, 
and General von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps, comprising 
the 2nd, 4th, and 9th Cavalry Divisions. 1 

After an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap the Com- 
mandant of Liege, General von Emmich gave orders for a 
night attack. His general plan was to make a demonstra- 
tion against the forts with a few companies, and to send 
the six brigades through the intervals between them 
to secure the town and citadel, and then to ;fall upon 
the forts from the rear. This attack was delivered soon 
after nightfall in five columns ; two from the north and 
north-east ; one, the central column, from the east ; and 
two from the south. The first two columns, for the most 
part, lost their way, and fell back after suffering heavy 
losses, though one battalion penetrated into Liege and was 
there captured. Of the two southern columns, one halted, 
having casualties so severe as to forbid further progress, 
and the other was seized with panic, the men firing upon 

1 " Luttich-Namur." 




each other. The central column met with serious resist- 5-17 Aug. 
ance, the brigadier and the commander of the leading 1914 - 
regiment being killed. It was on the point of falling back 
when Major-General Ludendorff, who, as Deputy Chief of 
the General Staff of the Second Army, was with General 
von Emmich watching the operations, came up and, taking 
command, pushed on. He was specially interested, for he 
had planned these very operations in peace when Chief of 
the Operations Section of the Great General Staff. After 
giving his men a rest, he renewed the attack in the forenoon 
of the 6th, and advanced until his leading troops were 
within a mile of Liege. Though unsupported by the other 
columns, he decided to make a dash for the citadel, and on 
advancing found practically no opposition. The Belgian 
Staff, anticipating that the 3rd Division might be sur- 
rounded, had withdrawn it to the Gette ; so the Germans 
found themselves in possession of the town of Liege. 

The true siege of the fortress then began. Von der 
Marwitz's Cavalry Corps worked round to the western side 
of the defences, and the German artillery shelled the forts. 
On the 12th, 42-cm. howitzers were brought up, and the 
last of the forts fell at 8.30 A.M. on the 16th. General Leman, 
the gallant commandant, was taken unconscious from 
under a heap of wreckage and made prisoner. He had 
nobly done his duty, and by delaying the German advance 
had rendered transcendent service to the cause of Belgium's 
Allies. 1 

Meanwhile, on the 10th, German cavalry and Jager 2 

1 The time gained to the Allies would appear to have been about four or 
five days. According to von Kluck (pp. 10-19), his three leading corps 
were on the line Kermpt Stevort Gorssum, forty miles (say three 
marches) west of Aix La Chapelle, on the night of the 17th. They had 
begun to arrive in the concentration area north-east of Aix on the 7th. 
Had Liege offered no opposition and had they at once marched off into 
Belgium, there seems no reason why the //., ///. and IV. Corps should 
not have reached the above line on the 10th, and completed concentration 
there on the 12th or 13th four or five days earlier than was the case. 
The six composite brigades and cavalry corps which attacked Liege were 
available to cover the concentration. Even on the 10th August the German 
Supreme Command hoped to commence the advance on the 13th, five 
days earlier than was possible (v. Billow, pp. 11, 12). According to post-war 
German publications however, e.g. " Graf Schlieffen und der Weltkrieg " 
by Foerster, the German time-table made the armies reach the line Thion- 
ville Sedan Mons, on the 22nd day of mobilization (23rd August), Sketch 1. 
and they were actually slightly ahead of it. Belgian opinion is that 
at least four days were gained (" Bulletin Beige des Sciences Militaires," 
Sept. 1921). 

. a It must always be borne in mind that a German cavalry division 
is a mixed force of all arms, with two or more Jager (Rifle) battalions 
included. (See Plate 1.) 



12-20 Aug. appeared before the line of the Gette, and gradually ex- 
1914> tended north as far as Hasselt (18 miles north-east of 

Sketches Tirlemont) and Diest (12 miles north of Tirlemont). On 
& 2 - the 12th six German cavalry regiments, with three horse- 
,2, b a tt er j es an( j two J tiger battalions attacked the line of the 
Gette at Haelen, a little to the south-east of Diest, and 
made some progress, but were ultimately driven back by 
the Belgians, with appreciable loss, after ten hours of 
sharp fighting. 

German troops, however, continued to pour into Bel- 
gium, and by the 17th the space between the Meuse, the 
Demer and the Gette was occupied by them in strength, 
in spite of the fact that the Belgian Army, assisted by the 
Garde Civique, had systematically obstructed the roads 
and destroyed the bridges. The right flank of the line of 
the Gette was already threatened, and columns to support 
the turning movement were passing the Meuse at Huy, 
where the bridge, blown up by the Belgians, had been re- 
paired. On the 18th, the Germans again attacked and 
carried Haelen, and also entered Tirlemont. They then 
fell upon the front and left flank of the Belgian 1st Division, 
and only by hard fighting were held at bay. The Gette 
position was now evidently in imminent danger. It was 
certain that the German //., IV. and IX. Corps, covered 
by the nd and 4th Cavalry Divisions were opposite the 
Belgian left between Diest and Tirlemont ; whilst the 
Guard, X. and VII. Corps were marching against the 
Belgian right on a front from Jodoigne (7 miles S.S.W. 
of Tirlemont) to Namur. It was also known that the 
Active corps were being followed by Reserve formations, 
namely, in the First Army, by the ///., IV. and IX. 
Reserve Corps ; in the Second Army by the Guard, VII. 
and X. Reserve Corps ; and in the Third Army by the 
XII. Reserve Corps. The French and the British, as will be 
seen, were neither of them yet at hand to give assistance ; 
and it was hopeless for the Belgians to think of contending 
against odds of four or five to one. Accordingly, on the 
evening of the 18th, the five Belgian divisions were skilfully 
drawn off from the Gette north-westward to Antwerp, and 
on the 20th entered the lines of that fortress without 
being seriously molested. There, on the flank of the Ger- 
mans if they advanced westward, and in their rear if they 
should turn southward, the Belgian Army remained an 
effective menace to the enemy. 1 

1 According to von Hausen, the commander of the Third Army (" Maine- 


(Map 5) 

Further to the south, about Namur, where the 4th 5-23 Aug. 
Belgian Division was stationed, German cavalry patrols 1914 - 
were in touch with the Belgian cavalry to the north of the 
fortress on the 5th August, and to the south-east of it on 
the 7th. But it was not until nearly a fortnight later that 
the main bodies of the enemy approached ; and meanwhile, 
on the 19th, the garrison had been joined by the 8th Belgian 
Infantry Brigade which, finding itself completely isolated 
at Huy, had blown up the bridge over the Meuse there and 
fallen back on Namur. On that day the Guard Reserve 
Corps of the German Second Army appeared on the north 
of the fortress, and the XI. Corps, consisting of the 22nd 
and 38th Divisions, of the Third Army, on the south-east, 
the whole under the command of General von Gallwitz. 
With these troops was a large proportion of heavy artillery, 
including four batteries of Austrian 30-5 -cm. mortars and 
one of Krupp's 42-cm. howitzers. 

On the 20th August, the Germans drove in the Belgian 
outposts, and on the 21st opened fire on the eastern and 
south-eastern forts. The Belgian commandant was power- 
less either to keep these monster howitzers at a distance or 
to silence them by counter-batteries. Before evening two of 
the principal forts had been very seriously damaged ; and 
within another twenty-four hours both were practically 
destroyed. Two Belgian counter-attacks on the 22nd August 
failed ; and by the evening of the 23rd the northern and 
eastern fronts had been laid bare, and five out of the whole 
circle of nine forts were in ruins. At midnight the garrison 
withdrew south-westward into France, whence it later 
rejoined the main Belgian Army at Antwerp. 

Thus for eighteen days the Belgians had faced the 
German invasion, delaying the hostile advance during a 

schlacht," p. 244, footnote), the HI. Reserve Corps and IX. Reserve Corps 
were originally detailed to push forward to the coast " direction Calais," 
but this order was cancelled when the Belgian Army went into Antwerp, 
and both corps were sent to watch it. Later, in early September, the 
XV. Corps was detained near Brussels on account of a sortie being expected 
from Antwerp. These three corps were absent from the battle of the 
Marne, though the IX. Reserve and XV. Corps reached the Aisne in time 
to oppose the Allied crossing. There were further employed at the siege : 
the 4th Ersatz Division (sent from the Sixth Army), the 1st Ersatz Reserve 
Division, a Matrosen Division, the 26th and S7th Landwehr Brigades, 
besides heavy artillery and engineers. 


2-12 Aug. most critical period, and gaining time which was of price- 
1914. i ess va j ue t the Allies. In addition to this great strategic 
advantage, the fact that the first German operations 
against fortresses, conducted under the conditions obtain- 
ing in modern warfare, were so rapidly successful gave 
warning to the French to readjust their conceptions of the 
defensive value of their fortified front, and reorganize it on 
lines calculated to counter the effect of bombardment by 
heavy howitzers. 

(See Maps 1, 2, & 5) 

On the 2nd August, the day of the presentation to 
Belgium of the German ultimatum, the French Commander- 
in- Chief decided to use "the alternative concentration 
areas " for the Fourth and Fifth Armies, so as to inter- 
polate the former in the general line, and extend the left 
wing further towards the north. 

Map i. On the 3rd, General Sordet's Cavalry Corps began 
to move forward east of Mezieres, and on the 5th it 
was ordered, with the consent of King Albert, to enter 
Belgium to ascertain the direction of advance of the enemy 
and to delay his columns. General Sordet crossed the 
frontier on the 6th and moved first towards Neufchateau 
(36 miles east of Mezieres). Then, striking north, he 
eventually arrived within nine miles of Liege ; but, finding 
that the Belgian field troops had been withdrawn from the 
area of the fortress, he retired in the direction of the Meuse. 
Valuable information was obtained by him as to the 
enemy's movements from an officer who was captured on 
the 9th, but otherwise the intelligence gained in the 
strategic reconnaissance was negative, and it did not 
achieve its secondary object of delaying the enemy's 
advance ; for, owing to the resistance of Liege, no important 
columns of German troops had at the time entered the 
area explored. 

To assist the Belgian Army and support the cavalry, 
the I. Corps of the French Fifth Army was sent forward on 
the 12th August from Mezieres northwards " to oppose any 

1 Taken mainly from General Joffre's statement to the Parliamentary 
Commission d'Enquete ; Defense du bassin de Briey ; the very lucid com- 
mentary on this Commission, by its rapporteur, M. Fernand Engerand, 
entitled "La Bataille de la Frontiere"; and the official publication 
" Quatre Mois de Guerre : Rapport sur Fensemble des operations du 2 aout 
au 2 decembre 1914." 


attempts of the enemy to cross the Meuse between Givet and 6-15 Aug. 
Namur." On the 15th, in conjunction with General 1914 - 
Mangin's 8th Infantry Brigade (specially detailed to sup- 
port the Cavalry Corps), it repulsed an attempt of 
von Richthofen's Cavalry Corps (Guard and 5th Cavalry 
Divisions) to cross near Dinant. 

Between the 6th and 8th August, it became certain that 
an enemy force containing units belonging to five different 
army corps was operating against Liege ; but the main 
group of the German Armies appeared to the French 
General Staff to be around Metz in front of Thionville and 
Luxembourg. The enemy was thus, it was thought, in a 
position either to advance westwards if Liege fell, or if 
Liege held out to wheel southwards, pivoting on Metz. A 
decision was therefore made by General JoSre, and com- 
municated to the French Armies on the 8th August, 1 to the 
effect that his intention was to bring the Germans to battle 
with all his forces united as in the original plan, with his 
right extended to the Rhine. If necessary, the left of the 
line would be held back, so as to avoid the premature 
engagement of one of the Armies before the others could 
come to its assistance. If, however, the enemy's right 
were delayed in front of Liege, or turned southwards, the 
left would be advanced. As the concentration would not 
be finished until the 18th, it was still too early to give 
detailed orders ; but the instructions provided for the 
Armies gaining ground as soon as they were ready to 

Meantime in Alsace, " to facilitate the attack of the 
main Armies," the small offensive outlined in the original 
plan was commenced on the extreme right by a detach- 
ment of the First Army, consisting of the VII. Corps 
and 8th Cavalry Division. This detachment crossed the 
frontier on the 6th August. After its advanced guard had 
reached Mulhausen, it found itself in the presence of 
superior forces, and was withdrawn. On the 14th the 
offensive was renewed with a stronger force, called the 
Army of Alsace, consisting of the VII. Corps, the Alpine 
and three Reserve divisions, under General Pau. On the 
same date the First and Second Armies began their forward 
movement across the frontier. For the Armies on the left 
only certain precautions were ordered. But during the 
afternoon of the 15th, news came from the Belgian 
Army that 200,000 Germans were crossing the Meuse 

1 In Instruction Gtntrale No. 1, dated 8th August 1914, 7 A.M. 


15-16 Aug. below Vise, and from the I. Corps of the attack at 
1914. Dinant; the Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) in con- 
sequence ordered the III. and X. Corps of the Fifth 
Army to join the I. Corps. General Lanrezac was further 
directed to hand his II. Corps and group of Reserve 
divisions to the Fourth Army, in compensation for which 
there were sent to him two recently arrived African 
divisions and the XVIII. Corps, originally in the Second 
Army, from the General Reserve. The Fourth Army then 
occupied the ground vacated by the Fifth, and the 
Third took over the objectives lately assigned to the 
Fourth. The duty of masking Metz was given to a new 
force, the Army of Lorraine, composed of three Reserve 
divisions from the Third Army and three others sent up for 
the purpose ; General Maunoury, who had originally been 
on the Italian frontier, was given command of it. There 
was thus a general taking of ground to the left. 

General Joffre's general plan of operations now began 

to take definite shape as cumulative evidence showed that 

the main German advance was in progress through Belgium. 

Map 2. The situation as it presented itself to him on the 16th 

August was as follows : 

" In the north, seven or eight German army corps and four 
" cavalry divisions are endeavouring to pass westwards between 
" Givet and Brussels, and even beyond these points." 

In the centre between Bastogne and Thionville there were 
thought to be six or seven army corps, and two or three 
cavalry divisions. South of Metz, the Germans appeared 
to be on the defensive. 

His intention now was to make the principal attack 
with the Third and Fourth Armies through Luxembourg 
and Belgian Luxembourg, so as to strike at the flank and 
communications of the enemy forces which had crossed the 
Meuse between Namur and the Dutch frontier, and if 
possible attack them before they could deploy for battle 
by wheeling south. To support this offensive the First 
and Second Armies were to make only a secondary attack 
between Metz and the Vosges, for the purpose of holding 
the enemy, who seemed to be gradually shifting westwards, 
and who otherwise might be able to take in flank the 
French Armies attacking in Luxembourg. Lastly, the 
left wing, consisting of the Fifth Army, the British Army 
when it should arrive, and the Belgian Army, was to move 
up so as to hold in check any German forces that might 


advance from the Meuse, and so gain sufficient time to allow 20 Aug. 
the attack of the Third and Fourth Armies to become 1914 - 
effective. In order to give weight to the attack, the Third 
and Fourth Armies were considerably strengthened. 1 

In brief, General Joffre's first object was to break the 
enemy's centre, and then he intended to fall with all 
available forces on the right or western wing of the German 

The general advance was to take place on the 21st. 
The positions on the morning of the 20th indicate the 
preliminary movements which had been made for the 
purpose. They were : 

The Army of Alsace had reached Mulhausen. 
The First and Second Armies were across the frontier in front 
of Luneville and Nancy, from near Sarrebourg to Delme, 
about thirty-six miles north-west of Sarrebourg. 
The Army of Lorraine observed Metz. 

The Third and Fourth Armies were close up to the Belgian 
frontier, astride the river Chiers, from near Longwy to 
Sedan, ready to cross the river Semoy. Ma P 5 - 

The Fifth Army was disposed : 

The I. Corps and 8th Infantry Brigade on the Meuse, 
near Dinant, facing east, with 

The 51st Reserve Division marching up from the south 
to act as a link between the French Fourth and Fifth 

The X. and III. Corps, each with an African division 
attached to it, lay along the Sambre near Charleroi, 
facing north. 

The XVIII. Corps was echeloned to the left rear on 
the line Gozee Thuin (6 miles and 9 miles south-west 
of Charleroi). 

General Valabregue's two remaining Reserve divisions 
were on the left of the XVIII. Corps and north-east of 
Maubeuge, in the gap into which General Joffre intended 
the British Army should move up. 

1 To make the changes clear, they are enumerated together here : 

The Third Army was reinforced by one Reserve division, and then by 
two more. 

The Fourth Army took over from the Fifth Army : II. Corps ; XI. 
Corps ; 52nd and 60th Reserve Divisions (leaving it the 51st) ; a cavalr 
division ; and the Moroccan Division from the IX. Corps of the Second 

The Fifth Army, to make up for this, received the 37th and 38th 
Divisions from Africa ; the XVIII. Corps from the Second Army ; and 
General Valabregue's Group of three Reserve divisions. So that the corps 
it now contained were the I., III., X., and XVIII., with the 37th Division 
added to the III. and the 38th to the X. 


20-21 Aug. Further to the west and beyond the space to be occupied 

1914. by the British, were three Territorial divisions under 

General d'Amade, the 84th near Douai, the 82nd near 

Arras, and the 81st between Hazebrouck and St. 


It will be observed that the front of the Fifth Army 
under General Lanrezac along the Meuse and Sambre 
formed a salient, at the apex of which was the Belgian 
fortress of Namur, on which by the evening of the 20th 
the Germans were closing. Consequently, any failure of 
his right to hold its ground on the Meuse would place his 
centre and left in a very dangerous situation, and render 
them liable to be cut off. 

On the 20th, however, before the general advance had 
begun, misfortunes had already overtaken the French. 
" The First and Second Armies, tired by several days of 
marching and fighting, came up against strongly organized 
positions, armed with powerful artillery, whose fire was 
admirably prepared and corrected by aeroplanes." After 
being violently counter-attacked, the Second Army was 
compelled to retire and the First had to conform to its 
movements. The actions in which they were engaged 
are known as the battles of Sarrebourg and Mor Range 
(25 miles north-west of Sarrebourg). 1 

On the 21st August, in spite of this reverse to the right 
wing, the Third and Fourth Armies crossed the frontier and 
advanced from ten to fifteen miles into the difficult 
Ardennes country, hilly, wooded, and with marshy bottoms. 
They were then met by the Armies of the German Crown 
Prince and Duke Albert of Wiirttemberg, numerically 
slightly superior to them, 2 and, after fighting the actions 
known as the battles of Virton and the Semoy 3 were com- 
pelled to fall back towards the Meuse. The attempt to 
break in the German centre before the right wing could 

1 It may be added here that an attempted pursuit of the Second Army 
by the Germans received a serious check on the 25th, for, in spite of the 
reverse, the French First Army returned to the offensive and struck them 
in flank. After some indecisive fighting, the situation of the French 
First and Second Armies became stabilized on a line in France, just inside 
the frontier. 

2 French. German. 

Third Army . . . 168,000 Fifth Army . . . 200,000 

Fourth Army . . . 193,000 Fourth Army . . . 180,000 

361,000 380,000 

3 Longwy and Neuf chateau in German accounts. 


deliver its blow against the Allied left wing had thus failed, IT Aug. 
owing to the facts that the enemy forces in the Ardennes 1914t 
were stronger than had been anticipated and part were 
deployed behind positions ready to receive the attack ; 
thanks however to a premature enveloping attack attempted 
by the German Crown Prince the reverse was less serious 
than it might otherwise have been. 

As regards the French Fifth Army, General Lanrezac 
had considered it inadvisable to advance simultaneously 
with the Armies on his right. He preferred to wait until 
his reinforcements should have arrived, which would not 
be until the 23rd ; * until the Fourth Army should have 
cleared the gorges of the Semoy and shortened by its ad- 
vance the eastern face of the salient which the front of the 
Fifth Army presented to the enemy ; and until the British 
Army should similarly have come up on his left. As will 
presently be seen, Sir John French's force on the 21st was 
approaching the line of the Mons Conde Canal. The 
general situation in which it was about to play its part may 
be thus summarized : 

The French First and Second Armies were retiring after 
the battles of Sarrebourg and Morhange ; 

The Third and Fourth " had failed, and the reverse seemed 
serious " ; 

The Fifth Army was in a salient about to be attacked by 
two German Armies ; 

Namur was on the point of falling (the last fort surrendered 
on the 25th) ; and 

The Belgian Army had been driven into Antwerp. 

(See Sketch 1 ; Maps 1, 2, & 5) 

Leaving only three Active corps and three Reserve 
divisions, assisted by a cavalry division, one Ersatz 'division 
and Landwehr formations, some 250,000 men in all, on her 
Eastern frontier, where she had the co-operation of the 
Austro-Hungarian Army, and the IX. Reserve Corps (until 
the 23rd August) and Landwehr formations in Schleswig 
to guard against a possible landing, Germany had assembled 

1 See p. 38. 

2 This summary of the early German operations is compiled from the 
authorities now available : von Bulow, von Kluck, von Hausen, von Kuhl, 
General Staff Monographs, etc. 


17 Aug. on her Western frontier seven Armies, 1 with Generaloberst 
1914. von Moltke as Chief of the General Staff and practically 

Sketch i. in command. 

Maps i By the evening of the 17th August 2 these Armies were 

concentrated, ready to move, on a long front extending 
from the fortress of Strasbourg to the Dutch frontier north 
of Liege. This front ran through Sarrebourg, Metz and 
Thionville ; 3 up the centre of the Duchy of Luxembourg 
(the neutrality of which had been violated on the 2nd 
August), to Liege ; and to the north - west of this 
fortress, where the northernmost German Army, von 
Kluck's, was deployed facing the Belgians on the Gette. 
In order to reach the far side of the neutral barrier 
formed by the projecting peninsula of Dutch Limbourg, 
behind which it had been assembled, it had defiled in 
three columns through Aix La Chapelle. The Supreme 
Command Orders directed the Armies of von Kluck 
(First) and von Biilow (Second), acting together under 
the latter general, 4 to deal with the Belgian Army, to 
force it away from Antwerp and to reach the line Namur 
Brussels. The First Army was to detail a detachment to 
mask Antwerp, and provide against a British landing on 
the coast by holding back its right. Von Hausen's (Third) 
Army was to gain the line of the Meuse from Givet to 
Namur. Namur was to be attacked and taken as soon as 
possible by the left of the Second and the right of the Third 
Armies. Meanwhile, the Fourth and Fifth Armies were to 
conform so that the whole five Armies on the right might 
carry out a gigantic wheel, first on to the line Thionville 
Brussels, and then forward in a south-westerly direction, 
Thionville still remaining the pivot. 

1 For Order of Battle, see Appendices 6 and 7. 

Approximate numbers were, excluding higher cavalry formations : 

First Army ..... 320,000 men 

Second Army . . . . 260,000 

Third Army 180,000 

Fourth Army .... 180,000 

Fifth Army 200,000 

Sixth Army 220,000 

Seventh Army .... 125,000 


A French calculation in "La Revue Militaire Generate ' for January 
1920 gives 1,440,000. 

2 See " Liittich-Namur," p. 67. 

3 The continuous fortifications round and connecting these two places 
form the so-called Moselle Position. 

4 The order of the 17th August which placed von Kluck under von 
Biilow was cancelled on the 27th, but reissued on the 10th September. 


The strategical conception dominating the initial de- 
ployment of the German Armies on the Western front and 
the invasion of Belgium and France has, during 1919- 
1920, been disclosed by the publications of several German 
General Staff officers, 1 and their statements are confirmed 
by the order issued on 5th September by the German 
Supreme Command. 2 

The strategic objective was to outflank the French by 
the west and drive them eastwards against the Swiss 
frontier. On completion of the deployment, the Sixth and 
Seventh Armies, under the senior army commander, Crown 
Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, were to advance against the 
Moselle, below Frouard (5 miles north-north-west of 
Nancy), and the Meurthe ; they were to hold fast the 
French forces (the First and Second Armies) assembled 
there, and prevent any of them from being transferred to 
the left wing to oppose the main German advance. If 
attacked seriously, Prince Rupprecht was to retire to a 
prepared position flanked by Strasbourg and Metz. 3 

Meanwhile, the great wheel on Thionville was to be 
continued. By the 22nd day of mobilization (23rd August) 
it was expected that the five Armies on the right would 
have reached the line Ghent Mons Sedan Thionville ; 
by the 31st day (1st September) the line Amiens La Fre 
Rethel Thionville. 4 Whilst the other Armies held their 
ground the Second Army digging in on the line of the Oise 
or Oise Aisne and thus covering Paris on the north side 
the First Army, with all its original fourteen divisions, 5 was 
to sweep over the lower Seine, 6 past the west of Paris and 
round the south. It was to be followed by Ersatz divisions, 
detailed to complete the investment of the fortress. When 
they were in position, the First Army, reinforced by the 
Sixth Army and by every division that could be spared 
from the other Armies, was to advance eastwards and drive 
the French against their Moselle fortresses, the Jura and 

1 E.g. von Kuhl, Foerster, Tappen, Baumgarten-Crusius. 

2 See Baumgarten-Crusius's " Die Marneschlacht, 1914," p. 73. 

3 The subsequent advance of the German Sixth and Seventh Armies, 
which resulted in a double envelopment being attempted, was not, we are 
told, originally intended. It was only permitted in consequence of the 
initial success of those Armies against the French, and the difficulties of 
sending troops from them to the right flank as planned, owing to the 
damage done to the Belgian railways (Tappen, pp. 13-15). 

4 This was accomplished in spite of the Belgian resistance, if we accept 
the time-table published in Germany since the war. 

5 Four (///. R. and IX. R. Corps) had to be left to invest Antwerp. 

6 The order to advance to the lower Seine was actually given to the 
First Army, in spite of its reduced numbers, on the 27th August. 



Switzerland. The same plan was to be pursued if the 
enemy abandoned the Oise, and withdrew behind the 
Marne and the Seine. To give sufficient weight to the blow 
which was to crush the Allies' left, roll up the line from the 
westward and, in conjunction with the advance of the 
Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies, push the entire line of 
battle south-east towards neutral territory, five of the ten 
cavalry divisions and twenty-six out of the total of the 
whole seventy -two divisions on the Western front were 
allotted to the two Armies under General von Billow. 1 

In order that the merits of the plan may be judged 
it may be added here in anticipation of the narrative, 
that the part of it which involved swinging round the 
west of Paris was abandoned on the evening of the 30th 
August. On that date the First Army turned south-east 
to exploit the supposed success of the Second Army at 
Guise. 2 The Supreme Command on the morning of the 
31st gave its approval of this movement. It was already 
beginning to find that it had not sufficient troops to carry 
out the original plan. There was a fifty 'mile interval 
between the Fourth and Second Armies that the Third was 
not strong enough to fill, and the First and Second Armies 
had not only suffered very heavily in battle with the 
French Fifth Army and the B.E.F., but they and the Third 
Army had been compelled to make substantial detachments : 
thus the First and Second Armies left the ///. Reserve 
and IX. Reserve Corps (four divisions) to observe the 
Belgian Army in Antwerp ; the Guard Reserve Corps (two 
divisions) to invest Namur, with the assistance of the XI. 
Corps (two divisions) of the Third Army (both the XI. and 
Guard Reserve Corps went later from Namur to Russia) ; and 
the VII. Reserve Corps (two divisions) to besiege Maubeuge ; 
besides minor detachments, such as a division of the XII. 
Reserve Corps at Givet, a brigade of the IV. Reserve Corps 
in Brussels, a brigade of the VII. Corps at Maubeuge. 
Thus the striking wing, the three Armies on the right, 

1 The density of the different German Armies on the original front on 
the 17th August is of interest : 

First Army front 18 miles, about 18,000 men per mile. 

Second 20 13,000 

Third 15 12,000 

Fourth 30 6,000 

Fifth 40 5,000 

Sixth 70 3,100 

Seventh 35 3,500 

2 Kluck, p. 76, says it was at the suggestion of von Billow ; Biilow, 
p. 42, makes out that von Kluck did it on his own initiative. 


was reduced from thirty-four to less than twenty-five 

The scope of the plan was far too wide for the forces 
available ; for had the French defended Lille, La Fere and 
Rheims, as might have been expected, still further detach- 
ments must have been left behind. Further, insufficient 
allowance appears to have been made for casualties, or, at 
any rate, for such heavy losses as the Germans suffered, 
since no reinforcements from the depots reached the Western 
Armies until the 14th September. 1 The plan was strategic- 
ally bad, for it was out of proportion to the means available. 
This appears to have been recognized by Ludendorff when 
head of the Operations Section of the Prussian Great 
General Staff in 1912, for he put forward a demand for six 
divisions to be added to the Army. 2 

Thus von Moltke no doubt gladly accepted, for tactical 
purposes, the solution offered by the inward wheel of the 
First Army, and evolved a reduced plan in which the outer 
flank should pass east instead of west of Paris. On the 3rd 
September an order was accordingly issued to the First and 
Second Armies to force the whole French Army away from 
Paris in a south-easterly direction towards the Swiss 
frontier. 3 How this plan fared will be narrated in due 

It may be noted that in the original plan, dated 1905, 
drawn up by Graf Schlieffen, von Moltke's predecessor, 
fifty-three divisions were allotted to the five Armies, 
First to Fifth, for the great wheel ; in 1914 there were 
fifty-five. Of the nine new divisions which became 
available in the interval, eight were allotted to the Sixth 
and Seventh Armies to ensure the inviolability of the 
Reichsland, whilst only one was added to the right wing, 
which however also received one division originally allotted 
to the Russian frontier. 4 

Comparing now the initial plans of the two belligerents, 
we see what had happened as regards the main French 
attacks : that made by the Armies of Dubail and Castelnau 
on the 14th August south of Metz found the German Sixth 
and Seventh Armies on the defensive, in strong positions. 
The general strategic advantage remained with the Germans : 
their 345,000 men, including the detachments in Upper 

1 Zwehl, p. 73 ; elsewhere the 20th September is given. 

2 Ludendorff, " Urkunden," p. 59. 

3 Baumgarten-Crusius, p. 66. This order is further explained by 
another of the 4th, Kluck, p. 97. 

4 Kuhl, pp. 178-180, Foerster, pp. 13, 17-18. 


Alsace, contained about 456,000 French. The offensive 
of the Armies of Ruffey and de Langle de Gary north of 
Thionville, commencing on the 21st August, encountered 
the German Fourth and Fifth Armies, which had begun on 
the 17th to wheel forward to the line Thionville Givet. 
Thus two Armies met two Armies of about equal strength. 
Maps. The result of the above operations was, practically, 
equilibrium, but it left three German Armies, von Hausen's, 
von Billow's and von Kluck's, comprising in all thirty-four 
divisions, free to deal with Lanrezac's Army, the tiny 
British Army of four divisions, and the almost equally 
small Belgian Army of six divisions thirty-four divisions 
against twenty, with a frontier destitute of natural ob- 
stacles, guarded only by obsolete fortresses, and the 
shortest and most direct road to Paris in front of them. 

The first step in the German plan had therefore been 
successful, as regards its objectives ; the line laid down for 
the first stage of the wheel on Thionville had been reached, 
and Liege and Namur had been taken ; it was unsuccessful 
only in that the Belgian Army had not been forced away 
from Antwerp, which it entered, after rear-guard fighting, 
on the 20th. Surprise has sometimes been expressed 
that the Germans did not push at least detachments to the 
Channel ports in August 1914, when there was no force 
available to oppose them except some Territorial units. 
It would appear that they did intend to do so, but the 
necessity of investing the Belgian Army in Antwerp 
absorbed the two corps, ///. Reserve and IX. Reserve, 
which had been selected for this purpose ; 1 and when the 
opening phase of the campaign was going so nearly accord- 
ing to plan, and there seemed a certainty of winning the 
war in a few days by a defeat of the French in a super- 
Sedan in the open field, it would have been strategically 
unjustifiable to divert a single man to seize a section of 
the coast, which, like Italy after the battle of Austerlitz, 
must have yielded to the invaders without serious conflict 
directly the main decision had fallen. 

(See Sketches 1 & 3 ; Maps 2 & 3) 

12 Aug. On the 12th August, the Commander-in-Chief, retain- 

Sfc et( J l - ing only a small party of his immediate staff with him, 

JNlup 2i. 

1 See footnote, p. 34. 






despatched General Headquarters from London to South- 14-17 Aug. 
ampton. They crossed to Havre on the 14th, and pro- 1914 - 
ceeded by rail early on the 16th, reaching Le Cateau late 
that night. 

On the 14th August, Sir John French himself, with his 
party, left London. He arrived at Amiens soon after 
9 P.M. An hour later, General Valabregue's chief staff 
officer came to report that his group, the 53rd and 69th 
Reserve Divisions, was entrenching south of the Oise 
between Vervins and Hirson, as a second line to the French 

On the following days, 15th, 16th and 17th August, 
the Commander-in-Chief proceeded to visit, in succession, 
the French Minister of War at Paris, General Joffre at 
the Grand Quartier General at Vitry le Franois, and 
General Lanrezac at Fifth Army Headquarters at Rethel. 
From them he learned in some detail the disposition of the 
French forces in the angle formed by the Sambre and the 
Meuse, south-west of Namur. General Lanrezac's Army 
was then rapidly concentrating in the area south of 
Charier oi : the I. Corps, on the right, being already massed 
between Namur and Givet ; the head of the III. Corps was 
at Philippe ville, and that of the X. Corps at Bohain, midway 
between St. Quentin and Le Cateau. The XVIII. Corps 
was expected to begin arriving in the area between Bohain 
and Avesnes on the 18th and 19th. General Valabregue's 
divisions were in position, as already stated above, south of 
Avesnes. General Sordet's Cavalry Corps was advancing 
again, this time north-east, from Charleroi and, if driven 
back, would pass to the left of the British Army. The task 
of that Army was to move northward and form the extreme 
left of the French advance. 

Throughout this period, that is to say between the 
12th and 17th August, the British troops had been passing 
across the Channel and disembarking on French soil. 
All was ready for their reception, and the welcome given 
to them by the inhabitants was enthusiastic. On the 
14th and the following days the troops began to move 
up by train to the areas of concentration, which were Sketch 3. 
arranged so that the army was assembled in a pear-shaped 
area between Maubeuge and Le Cateau, about twenty-five 
miles long from north-east to south-west, and averaging 
ten miles wide. The cavalry was at the north-eastern end, 
ready to join hands with the French Fifth Army. 

In detail, the areas were : Ma P 3 - 


17-20 Aug. Cavalry : East of Maubeuge, Jeumont, Damousies, Cousolre. 

Divisional Headquarters, Aibes. 

II. Corps : East of Landrecies. Headquarters, Landrecies. 
3rd Division : Marbaix, Taisnieres, Noyelles. 
5th Division : Maroilles, Landrecies, Ors. 
I. Corps : East of Bohain. Headquarters, Wassigny. 
1st Division : Boue, Esqueheries, Leschelles. 
2nd Division : Grougis, Mennevret, Hannappes. 
The;Royal Flying Corps, taking the field in war for the first 
time, assembled four squadrons, with 105 officers, 755 other 
ranks, and 63 aeroplanes at the aerodrome of Maubeuge ; it also 
formed an aircraft park at Amiens. 

The concentration was virtually complete on the 20th. 
One sad incident marred the progress to the scene of action, 
namely the death of Lieutenant-General Sir James Grierson, 
commanding the II. Corps, who expired suddenly in the 
train on the morning of the 17th. Sir John French asked 
that Sir Herbert Plumer might take General Grierson' s 
place ; but the Secretary of State for War decided to send 
Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. 

On the 19th August, G.H.Q. was informed that the 4th 
Division would be despatched from England immediately ; 
and it was settled that the 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers, 
I/Scottish Rifles, I/Middlesex and 2/Argyll and Suther- 
land Highlanders, which had been employed on the 
Lines of Communication, should be formed into the 19th 
Infantry Brigade. On the same day the Flying Corps 
carried out its first reconnaissances from Maubeuge north- 
ward towards Brussels, and north-west over Tournai 
and Courtrai. No large bodies of troops were seen ; and 
on the 20th the British cavalry was pushed forward as far 
as Binche on the north without encountering any enemy. 
But an aerial reconnaissance that day observed a column 
of troops stretching through Louvain as far as the eye 
could reach. This was a column of the German First 
Army. Diverting one of his corps (the ///. Reserve), 
followed later by the IX. Reserve Corps and the equivalent 
of five divisions, 1 to mask the Belgian forces in Antwerp, 
von Kluck was pressing westward with the remainder of 
the First Army. On this day, the 20th, his troops entered 
Brussels. It was a fateful day in many respects, for during 
its course the main Belgian Army retired into Antwerp, 
the Germans approached within decisive range of Namur, 
and General Joffre gave his orders for the general advance. 
1 See footnote, p. 34. 


In this great movement, the outline of which has 20 Aug. 
already been given, 1 the British were to advance on the 1914 - 
left of the Fifth Army north-east, by way of Soignies, in 
the general direction of Nivelles. If von Kluck wheeled 
southward from Brussels, it was not anticipated that his 
right would extend much beyond Mons. Therefore, if the 
British were in line about this place, they would be ready, 
when once General Lanrezac had passed the Sambre, to 
wheel eastward and envelop the right of the Germans. 
To make this envelopment the more certain, General 
Sordet's Cavalry Corps, which had on this day fallen back 
across the Sambre to Fontaine 1'Eveque (midway between 
Charleroi and Binche), was directed to take position beyond 
the left of the British. Still further to the west, the three 
French Territorial divisions, under the command of General 
d'Amade, were to push gradually forward. 2 

(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 2, 3, & 5) 

The initiative seemed to be passing into the hands of Sketch 3. 
the Germans, and it was urgent to ascertain by aerial and Maps 2 
other reconnaissance what use, if any, they were making of 3 * 
it. Meanwhile, in pursuance of General Joffre's plan, 
G.H.Q. on the evening of the 20th issued orders 3 for a 
movement northward during the three ensuing days. 
An attached march table gave the approximate positions 
to be reached each day. The general effect of these 
orders when executed would be that on the 23rd August 
the Army would be aligned on a front, roughly facing 
north-east, from Estinne au Mont (near Binche) on the 
south-east to Lens, eight miles north of Mons, on the north- 
west, with the Cavalry Division on the left, while the 5th 
Cavalry Brigade, having covered the right flank during 
the movement, would find itself finally in advance of the 
right front. The daily moves were to be as follows : 

The 5th Cavalry Brigade was to proceed on the 21st 
to the neighbourhood of Binche, the right of the line, and 
there remain ; the Cavalry Division, moving on the left 
of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, was to march level with it on the 
21st, and on the 22nd proceed to Lens, the left of the line, 

1 See p. 38. 

2 For further information as regards General d'Amade's Force, see p. 

3 Appendix 10. 



where it would halt astride the road that connects Mons and 
Ath. Covered by the cavalry, the rest of the Army was 
to advance. 1 

On the 21st the II. Corps to the line Goegnies Bavai ; the 

I. Corps to the line Avesnes Landrecies. 

On the 22nd the II. Corps north-westward to the line from 
Moris westward to Thulin ; the I. Corps north-eastward to the 
line Hautmont Hargnies. 

On the 23rd the II. Corps was to wheel eastwards, the two 
divisions being one in rear of the other, with its front east of 
Mons between Spiennes and St. Denis ; the I. Corps was to 
incline north-eastward and come up on the right of the II., on 
a line from Estinne au Mont westward to Harmignies (im- 
mediately south-east of Spiennes). 

The morning of the 21st broke thick and misty, render- 
ing aerial reconnaissance impossible until the afternoon. 
The cavalry moved northwards early, and after reaching 
Villers St. Ghislain (six miles south-east of Mons) heard 
that German cavalry was in force five miles to the north- 
ward ; a patrol which entered Mons found a similar report 
current there. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade, after crossing 
the Conde Canal east of Mons, took up a line upon both 
banks from Maurage to Obourg. Patrols of the 9th 
Lancers and 4th Dragoon Guards sighted German patrols 
in the vicinity of the two bridges east of Mons, those of 
Nimy and Obourg ; but contact was not established. 
Information from peasants, however, pointed to the move- 
ment of considerable forces southward from Soignies (ten 
miles north-east of Mons). 

The II. Corps followed the cavalry to a line level with 
and west of Maubeuge, the 3rd Division, on the right, to 
the line Bettignies Feignies La Longueville, and the 5th 
Division, on the left, to the line Houdain St. Waast 
Gommegnies. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien reached Bavai 
from England at 4 P.M. and took over command of the 

II. Corps. The outposts of the 9th Infantry Brigade on 
this evening overlooked the old battlefield of Malplaquet, 
and were found by the Lincolnshire Regiment which, 
together with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, had fought in the 
action under Marlborough, two hundred years before. 

The I. Corps simultaneously moved up to the line from 
Avesnes to Landrecies, about ten miles behind the front 
of the II., the 1st Division on the right, and the 2nd on 

1 The positions of troops are always given from right to left, unless 
otherwise stated. 


the left. The day was sultry and many of the reservists 21 Aug. 
suffered in consequence ; a considerable number were still l ^u. 
feeling the effects of inoculation, and all found the hard 
irregular surface of the cobbled roads extremely trying to 
march on. In the afternoon the weather cleared and 
the Flying Corps was able to carry out reconnaissances. 
It reported a large body of cavalry with some infantry Map 5. 
and guns south-east of Nivelles. This intelligence was 
confirmed, and the formation identified as the German 
9th Cavalry Division, by a British intelligence officer who 
was in Nivelles when the division entered, but escaped by 
motor. The presence of two more cavalry divisions was 
ascertained, one of which, the 2nd, had been pushed far to 
the westward, and had reached the line Ghent Audenarde, 
being evidently intended to explore the area as far as the 
sea. The other German cavalry division, supposed to be 
the 4th, was between Charleroi and Seneffe. 1 These three 
cavalry divisions formed the German //. Cavalry Corps 
under General von der Mar wit z. 2 The main German line 
was reported as extending south-east from Grammont, 
through Enghien, Nivelles, Genappes and Sombreffe to 
Charleroi. It is now known that from right to left that 
is to say from north-west to south-east the order of the 
German corps was IV. (with II. echeloned behind it), 
///., IX., VII., X., and Guard Corps, with four Reserve 
corps in rear of them. The Allied High Command was 
correctly informed as to the actual number of German 
corps in Belgium; but it could only, of course, forecast 
the scope of the movement in progress : part of von 
Kluck's cavalry at least, and possibly some of his infantry 
had begun a wheel south-westwards from Brussels. 
Whether he intended to continue in that direction or 
sweep further westwards, it was as yet impossible to judge 
on the available information. On the British right, 
General Lanrezac's Army was in contact with infantry of 
the German Second Army along the whole line' of the 
Sambre on either side of Charleroi, from Tamines to Pont 
a Celles, so that hard fighting in that quarter on the 
morrow was almost certain. There seemed every chance 
that it might spread further to the west. 

At 2.45 P.M. G.H.Q. ordered the cavalry to close the 

1 According to von Kluck, p. 35, it was near Enghien. The identifica- 
tion of the other cavalry divisions was correct. 

2 The corps, after concentrating near Ath, was sent north-westwards 
towards the coast. 


line between the French left and Mons : the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade to take up a line from the left of General Sordet's 
Cavalry Corps at Fontaine 1'fiveque to Peronnes, in front 
of Binche, and the Cavalry Division to prolong that line 
to the Canal at Boussoit (five miles east of Mons) with 
another brigade, the 3rd. Thence patrols were to be 
pushed out north and north-east. Operation orders, issued 
from G.H.Q. shortly before midnight, 1 directed that the 
march table issued on the 20th should hold good for the 
22nd, with two modifications. The outposts of the II. 
Corps, instead of having their right on Mons, were now to 
hold an angle with Mons in the apex that is from Givry 
north-westward to Nimy and thence westward along the 
canal to Pommeroeul ; and as soon as they had taken this 
over, the Cavalry Division was to move westward to a 
position in echelon behind the left, in the area comprised 
within the triangle Thulin Quievrain Baisieux, with 
outposts along the line of the Canal from the left of the 
II. Corps to Conde". The intention still was that the British 
Army should take the offensive. 

1 Appendices 11 and 12. 

22ND AUGUST 1914 

(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 2, 3, 5, & 6) 

AT dawn on the 22nd August C Squadron of the 4th Maps 2 
Dragoon Guards (2nd Cavalry Brigade) pushed out two & 3 - 
officer's patrols from Obourg, on the Canal, north towards 
Soignies ; one of these found a German piquet on the road, 
fired on it, and drove it off. This was apparently the 
first shot of the war fired by the British on the continent. 
Later a troop of the same squadron advanced to meet a 
body of German cavalry which was moving south along 
the road from Soignies towards Mons, turned it back near 
Casteau, and pursued it until checked by fire. 1 The 4th 
killed three or four of the enemy and captured three more, 
who proved to belong to the Jfih Cuirassiers of the 9th 
Cavalry Division. Further to the east, the 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade found all clear for two miles north of the Canal 
within the triangle Gottignies Roeulx Houdeng ; but 
here again the peasants reported the enemy to be in strength 
to the north, at Soignies and north of La Louviere (eleven 
miles east of Mons). Still further east patrols of the 
5th Cavalry Brigade early found contact with the enemy 
in the direction of La Louviere and reported German 
troops of all arms to be advancing from the north, and 
the French to be retiring across the Sambre. General 
Sordet's 3rd Cavalry Division passed through the British 
5th Cavalry Brigade soon after, on its march westward ; 
but it was not until nearly 10 A.M. that a German detach- 
ment of all arms 2 came in contact with two squadrons of 
the Scots Greys (5th Cavalry Brigade), which were holding 
the bridges over the Samme at Binche and Peronnes, 

1 German accounts also record this as the first contact. " Mons," p. 17. 

2 Apparently of the 13th Division. See p. 61. 



facing east. The enemy made little effort to force the 
passage, though he shelled the Greys heavily but ineffec- 
tively, and kept up a fairly accurate rifle fire. The 3rd 
Cavalry Brigade, in support of the 5th, remained about 
Bray, two miles in rear, whence D and E Batteries R.H.A. 
fired a few shells. At 2 P.M. the Greys slowly drew off, 
having apparently, by sheer superiority of marksmanship, 
inflicted some thirty or forty casualties at the cost of a 
single officer wounded. A troop of the 16th Lancers, 
which had been sent to their support, gave chase to a 
hostile patrol on the way, and came suddenly upon a 
party of Jdger on the hill immediately to west of Peronnes. 
The troop rode straight over the Jdger, charged through 
them again on the return journey, at a cost of only one 
man wounded and three horses killed, and then left them 
to E Battery R.H.A., which had unlimbered to cover 
its return. Altogether, the cavalry was heartened by its 
work on this day, being satisfied that it was superior to 
the German horsemen, both mounted and dismounted, 
both with rifle and with sword. 

The cumulative effect on the British cavalry com- 
manders of the encounters during the day was the con- 
viction that German infantry in great force was in close 
support of the German cavalry. They had made reports 
in that sense on the previous day, and they were now more 
than ever confirmed in their opinion. Aerial reconnais- 
sance during the forenoon did not tend to shake this view. 
One aviator landing at Beaumont (about twelve miles east 
of Maubeuge) to take in petrol, learned from General de 
Mas-Latrie, the commander of the French XVIII. Corps, 
that General Sordet, on his march westwards to the left 
flank of the Allied Armies, had on the 21st encountered 
German infantry north of the Sambre Canal, and had been 
compelled to fall back. This accounted for his movement 
southward to Binche. Later, another British aeroplane 
(which returned to the aerodrome at 1.10 P.M.) reported 
the northern part of Charleroi and many other towns 
and villages near it to be in flames, and on its return 
westward was fired at by an infantry brigade between Ath 
and Enghien. A third aeroplane had a similar experience, 
the observer being wounded. The sum total of these 
observations was to the effect that brigades of German 
infantry, probably amounting to a corps in all, filled the 
roads south of Grammont, that a cavalry division was at 
Soignies, and that the general front of this corps and 


cavalry division extended, facing south-west, from Lessines 22 Aug. 
to Soignies, 1 no part of them being west of the Dendre 1914 - 
Canal, excepting a party of mounted troops which had 
been seen at Peruwelz, immediately to the north of Conde. 
Their further advance, if the direction was maintained! 
would bring their left (east) flank to Mons. 


Meantime, the British I. and II. Corps were advancing. Maps 3 
In view of the situation, both corps started an hour and a & 5 - 
half before the time that had been originally ordered. The 
1st Division, moving at 4 A.M., reached its selected halting 
places north and south-west of Maubeuge at Bettignies, 
St. Remi Mai Bati, Limont Fontaine, between 3 and 5 P.M. 
But shortly before 3.30 P.M. Sir Douglas Haig received 
orders for the I. Corps to continue its advance. The 
result of the morning's reconnaissances had shown G.H.Q. 
that, if the Cavalry Division were withdrawn, as already 
ordered, to the left of the line, the 5th Cavalry Brigade 
would be too weak to cover the large gap between the 
right of the II. Corps and the left of the French XVIII. 
Corps on the Sambre, and that consequently the I. Corps 
must be hurried up to its support. Accordingly, between 
5 and 7 P.M. the 1st Division resumed its march, but did 
not reach its billets until far into the night, the 2nd and 
3rd Infantry Brigades entering Villers Sire Nicole and 
Croix lez Rouveroy, some eight to ten miles south-west of 
Binche, between 9 and 10 P.M., whilst the 1st (Guards) 
Brigade on the right did not arrive at Grand Reng until 
2 to 3 A.M. on the 23rd. This was a long march, which 
tried the troops severely. 

About noon the 2nd Division, which had started at 
5 A.M., halted in depth at La Longueville, Hargnies, and 
Pont sur Sambre, which lie on a north and south road 
passing west of Maubeuge. Its head was thus some six 
miles south-west of the rear of the 1st Division. The 2nd 
Division also received orders to resume its march ; but 
the orders were cancelled, since the German advance had 
apparently ended for the day, and there was no immediate 
necessity to make such a call on the troops. 

The whole movement of the I. Corps was covered on 

1 According to von Kluck the troops in question were, commencing 
on the west : IV. Corps, III. Corps and 9th Cavalry Division. 


the west by a flank guard of the Divisional Cavalry, which 
traversed the Forest of Mormal. 

Sketch 3. Meanwhile, in the II. Corps, the 3rd Division moved 
Map 6. off at 7 A.M., and the 5th, in three columns, at 6 A.M. ; the 
former reached its billets around Mons, in the area Nimy 
Ghlin Frameries Spiennes, at about 1 P.M., and the 
latter, on its left, the line of the Mons Canal from Jemappes 
westward to Bois de Boussu, one or two hours later. The 
troops again suffered much from the cobbled roads, and 
the march, though not long, was extremely trying. The 
first outpost line taken up by the 3rd Division, consequent 
upon the reports of the engagement of the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade, was from Givry north-west to the edge of 
Mons. Later in the afternoon, however, the line was 
thrown forward in a wide sweep eastwards, through Villers 
St. Ghislain, St. Symphorien, the bridge at Obourg, and the 
bridge at Lock 5, to Nimy. The 8th Infantry Brigade 
took the right of this line, the 9th the left, and the 7th 
was in reserve some five miles in rear at Frameries and 
Ciply the village around which Marlborough's army had 
bivouacked on the night before the battle of Malplaquet. 
On the left of the 3rd Division, the 13th Infantry Brigade 
of the 5th Division occupied the line of the Canal from 
Mariette to Les Herbieres, and the 14th Infantry Brigade 
from Les Herbieres to Pommeroeul. The total front round 
Mons held by the II. Corps was over twenty miles. 

Thus the two corps were approximately in the positions 
assigned to them in G.H.Q. orders of the 20th August. The 
I. Corps was only a short distance from its intended 
position ; but the cavalry was now about to move due 
west, and a wheel of the II. Corps to the north-east up to 
Lens had still to take place. For the moment the line of 
the Mons Canal, now held by the outposts of the II. Corps, 
was the left of the British front, and with the I. Corps' 
front formed a salient angle, not a straight line. 

A huge belt of woodland extended along the whole 
length of the front north of the Canal, capable of screening 
the approach of the enemy to within two miles, or even 
less, of the British piquet line. Around Mons itself the 
Canal forms a pronounced salient (the " Mons Salient " as 
it will be called), which was ill-adapted to prolonged and 
serious defence. On appreciating the situation, 3rd Divi- 
sion Headquarters, which had been warned of the possi- 
bility of an attack by German advanced guards, decided 
that in this quarter the outposts should not be reinforced 


in case of attack, and ordered the preparation of second 22 Aug. 
line positions in rear, which will presently be described. 1914 - 
Meanwhile, as the II. Corps came up, it became possible 
gradually to collect the Cavalry Division. Originally it 
had been intended that the division should move westward 
at noon, but this, in view of the German menace about 
Binche, had been considered inadvisable. At 4 P.M., how- 
ever, General Allenby gave the order to withdraw west- 
ward. The main body of the 5th Cavalry Brigade remained 
near Estinne au Mont (south-west of Binche), leaving the 
Scots Greys in position at Estinne au Val, a couple of 
miles to the north-west. At 6.30 P.M. this brigade, having 
first put the bridges over the Samme into a state of defence, 
went into billets between Binche and Merbes Ste. Marie. 
As the Cavalry Division drew off, it was followed by a 
German airship. After a most painful march westward 
behind the II. Corps, along some fourteen miles of cobbled 
street through the dreary squalor of an interminable 
mining village, it reached its billets at Elouges, Quievrain 
and Baisieux, on the left of the Army, between midnight 
and 3 A.M. of the 23rd. 


In the course of the afternoon the Flying Corps made Maps 3 
further reconnaissances towards Charleroi, and ascertained & 5< 
that at least two German army corps 1 one of them the 
Guard Corps and the Guard Cavalry Division, were 
attacking the French Fifth Army on the line of the Sambre. 
In the evening, the observers returned with very grave 
news, which was confirmed by the British liaison officer 
with General Lanrezac and by an officer of the Fifth Army 
Headquarters sent by that general. The French centre 
had been driven back, and the French X. Corps had retired 
to the line St. Gerard (13 miles E.S.E. of Charleroi) 
Biesme Gerpinnes, from five to ten miles south of the 
river ; the French III. Corps had likewise fallen back 
nearly the same distance,, to a line from Gerpinnes west- 
ward to Jamioulx ; the XVIII. Corps on the left, however, 
remained in its original position, still echeloned to the 
rear, between Marbaix and Thuin. General Sordet had 
moved southward from Binche, and was halting his Cavalry 
Corps for the night at Bersillies 1'Abbaye (9 miles south 
of Binche), striking well to the rear of the British Army 

1 Guard and A'. Corps (see Biilow). 


before moving west. General Valabregue's two Reserve 
divisions were near Avesnes, twenty-five miles south of 
Mons, preparing to march north-east towards Beaumont 
Cousolre, in rear of the gap between the Allied Armies. 1 
The British on the Mons Canal, therefore, were some nine 
miles ahead of the main French line ; and the 1st Division, 
when it came up to its destination about Grand Reng, 
would be fully nine miles from the left flank of the French 
XVIII. Corps. To fill the gap there were no troops avail- 
able, except the 5th Cavalry Brigade and Valabregue's two 
Reserve divisions ; unless we include Sordet's cavalry, 
which was still in the neighbourhood, though moving fast 
away from it. Further, nine miles of the British line 
from the Mons Salient to Rouveroy (9 miles south-east 
of Mons), was held only by the 8th Infantry Brigade. 

The enemy's main bodies were now reported at various 
points within dangerous proximity. Twenty thousand 
men of all arms, presumed to be part of the German 
VII. Corps, were known to be moving southward from 
Luttre, about eight miles north of Charleroi. Thirty 
thousand more (supposed to be the IV. or the ///. Corps, 
but actually the VII.) were reported about Nivelles, 
and the IX. Corps was bivouacking for the night south- 
east of Soignies. 2 Yet another large body of all arms, 
reckoned to be another corps, the //., was moving west 
through Ladeuse, about five miles south of Ath. Further, 
the German 9th Cavalry Division had been identified, with 
its head at Peruwelz, and other cavalry, probably divi- 
sional, was known to be north of Mons. The inhabitants 
of Les Herbieres informed the Scottish Borderers that 
twelve Uhlans had ridden into their village on the 21st, 
and that some two hundred Germans were close at hand. 
Finally an air report was brought into Maubeuge, and at 
once taken personally to G.H.Q. by Brigadier-General Sir 
David Henderson, that a long column, estimated at a 
corps, was moving westward on the Brussels Ninove 
road, and at the latter town had turned south-west towards 
Grammont. This was later identified as the German //. 
Corps of the First Army. There were also signs of a strong 

1 See Note on the movements of General Valabregue's Group at end of 
Chapter V. 

2 Von Kluck and von Billow had corps in the positions stated, but the 
British reports, good though they were, did not on this occasion identify 
all the corps exactly, thus Kluck' s map shows the VII. Corps of the Second 
Army marching through Nivelles ; the III. and IV. were between Soignies 
and Ath. 


force moving down the great chaussee on Soignies ; it was 22 Aug. 
endeavouring to hide itself from observation by making 
use of the trees that bordered the road. 

As the situation disclosed itself, the British Commander- 
in-Chief, whilst still hoping that offensive action might be 
possible, began to realize the necessity, in view of the 
isolated position of his force, of being prepared for any 
kind of move, either in advance or retreat. The air report 
that a corps was moving on the road Brussels Ninove 
Grammont seemed to give warning of a very ambitious 
enveloping movement to the south-west. In any case 
von Kluck's advance made it impossible to expect that 
the British would be able to reach Soignies without opposi- 
tion. On the evening of the 22nd Sir John French held 
a conference at Le Cateau, at which the Chief of the 
General Staff, Sir Archibald Murray, and the G.S.O. 
in charge of Intelligence, Colonel G. M. W. Macdonogh, 
were present, with the Brigadier - Generals, G.S. of the 
I. and II. Corps, and the G.S.O. 1 of the Cavalry Division. 
The position of the Germans as it was then known was 
explained and discussed. At the close, the Commander- 
in-Chief announced his decision that, owing to the retreat 
of the French Fifth Army, the British offensive would not 
take place. To a request of General Lanrezac, brought by 
a staff officer about 11 P.M., that the English should attack 
the flank of the German columns which were pressing him 
back from the Sambre, Sir John French felt that it was 
impossible to accede ; but he agreed to remain in his 
position on the canal for twenty-four hours. At the 
suggestion of the II. Corps, he ordered the I. Corps to 
take over by 6 A.M. on the 23rd the portion of the outpost 
line of the II. Corps which lay east of Mons. Accordingly 
the 2nd Division which, as we have seen, had remained in 
its original billets, moved forward at 3 A.M. on the 23rd, 
but was too late to relieve the II. Corps before fighting 


From the many sources of information now available, 
it would appear that the fog of war on the German side, 
in spite of superiority in aircraft, was very much more 
intense than on the British. 

In the first place, von Kluck laboured under the 


misapprehension l that the B.E.F. had landed at Ostend, 
Dunkirk and Calais. The Great General Staff had expected 
that it would do so ; 2 but the measures taken by the 
French to prevent espionage were so good that no informa- 
tion as to the real landing-places reached the Germans. 
Thus their accounts say : 3 "As regards the arrival of this 
" Force [the B.E.F.], the information was unreliable, and as 
" regards its line of advance, there was none whatever. 
" Even a message from the Supreme Command dated 
" 20th August, which arrived at First Army Headquarters 
" on the evening of the 21st, ran : ' Disembarkation of the 
" ' English at Boulogne and their employment from direction 
" ' of Lille must be reckoned with. The opinion here, how- 
" * ever, is that large disembarkations have not yet taken 
" ' place. . . .' It was only on the 22nd August that an 
" English cavalry squadron was heard of at Casteau, 6 miles 
" north-east of Mons, 4 and an aeroplane of the English 5th 
" Flying Squadron which had gone up from Maubeuge was 
" shot down. The presence of the English on our front 
" was thus established, although nothing as regards their 
" strength." 

What is more convincing perhaps than even this state- 
ment is the opening paragraph of von Kluck's operation 
orders for the 23rd August, 5 issued at Hal at 8.30 P.M. on 
the 22nd ; all that he could tell his corps commanders was : 
" A squadron of British cavalry was encountered to-day 
" at Casteau, north-east of Mons, and a British aeroplane, 
" coming from Maubeuge, was shot down near Enghien." 
Von Kluck's uncertainty, however, was still great, and he 
was so obsessed with the idea that the British would appear 
on his flank that on 23rd August, the actual day of the battle 
of Mons, hearing that troops were detraining at Tournai, 
he halted his Army for two hours 8.30 to 10.30 A.M. and 
prepared to wheel westwards. In von Kluck's own words : 
" A report reached Army Headquarters that a detrainment 
" of troops had been in progress at Tournai since the 
" previous day. It seemed therefore not unlikely that strong 
" British forces were being sent forward through Lille. 

1 Kluck, p. 33. Kuhl, Generalstab, p. 91. 

8 Von Zwehl writing in the Militar Wochenblatt, Nos. 35, 36, 37 and 
38 of September 1919, in an article entitled " The Operations of Field 
Marshal French against the First Army and the VII. Reserve Corps" 
Kluck, p. 34, and Biilow, p. 21, also give the Supreme Command me 

4 This belonged to the 4th Dragoon Guards, as mentioned at 
beginning of Chapter II. 
6 Kluck, p. 34. 


" The heads of the advanced guards of the corps were 22 Aug. 

"therefore halted on the road Leuze Mons Binche to 1914 -. 

" enable preparations to be made for the Army to wheel 

" westwards. . . . Eventually, however, it was reported 

" that only a French infantry brigade was at Toumai, and 

" that it was retiring on Lille. The Army, therefore, con- 

" tinued to advance." 

The German General Staff monograph " Mons " adds 
that by the detrainment at Tournai " the still unsolved 
" question as to where the British principal forces would be 
" met was made yet more difficult to answer. In relation to 
" the landing-places of the British, their detrainment near 
" Lille was not unlikely." It continues that, in the course 
of the forenoon, information as to the presence of the 
B.E.F. on the Canal became more and more definite. 
" A captured private letter announced the presence of a 
" strong British Army south of Mons. The nearest division 
" of the Second Army, the 13th Division, reported that a 
" British cavalry brigade had been driven from Pe"ronnes 
" in a south-westerly direction. 1 ... In the early morning, 
" aeroplane reconnaissance had given no results in conse- 
" quence of the prevailing fog." 

On the arrival of the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Grenadier 
Regiment (III. Corps), at Baudour, 2 miles north of the 
Mons Canal, about noon on the 23rd August, the cavalry 
reported 2 that there was no enemy within fifty miles, 
and shortly afterwards two Hussars, covered with blood, 
galloped past shouting that the enemy had occupied the 
line of the Canal in front. A third limped past, dragging 
his blood-stained saddle, and reported " in front, in the 
village, there they are ! " 

The German General Staff account states that " recon- 
" noitring parties were unable to reach the bridges [of the 
" Canal]. Whenever they tried to penetrate between the 
" numerous widely scattered farms . . . they were received 
" with fire from invisible riflemen." It was thus in complete 
ignorance of the strength of the British that von Kluck 
advanced to the Canal ; as he says, there " might have 
been only cavalry " in front of him. 3 

1 It was two squadrons of the Royal Scots Greys. See p. 53. 

2 " Bloem," p. 116. 

3 Just as von Biilow on the 22nd August at Charleroi thought that he 
was only opposed by cavalry and weak infantry detachments when he had 
the French Fifth Army in front of him. Biilow, pp. 21, 22. 



(See Sketches 2 & 3 ; Maps 5, 6, & 7) 

Map 6. THE ground on which the British Army had taken up its 
position is a narrow belt of coalfield which extends roughly 
for rather more than twenty miles westwards from Maurage 
(six miles east of Mons) along the Mons Canal, and has an 
average breadth, from the Canal southward, of two miles. 
South of this belt the country gradually rises to a great 
tract of rolling chalk downs, cut into by many streams and 
with numerous outlying spurs. Every inch of this territory 
has in bygone days seen the passage of British armies; 
and name after name is found upon British colours, or is 
familiar in British military history. 

On the ground occupied by the I. Corps that is to say, 
roughly from Givry northward to Spiennes, thence west- 
ward almost to Paturages and thence southward again to 
Quevy le Petit the chalk comes to the surface ; and 
there is even a little outcrop of it within the salient or loop 
of the Canal around Mons. This small area is cut up by 
wire fences, market gardens, and the other artificial 
features which form the outskirts of a provincial town ; 
and it is noteworthy that across this tangle of enclosures 
no fewer than seven different roads diverge from Mons 
north-east and north-west to as many bridges. At the 
base of the salient the ground rises gradually from north 
to south, for fifteen hundred to two thousand yards, till 
it culminates in three well-marked features. The first of 
these is Mount Erebus, a round hill immediately to the 
south of Mons ; the second is a great whale-backed hump, 
about a thousand yards long from north to south, very 
steep upon every side, except the eastern, and crowned by 



two summits, Mont Panisel on the north and Bois la Haut 23 Aug. 
on the south, the whole called by the latter name. The 1914 - 
third is the height known as Hill 93, which lies south- 
east of Bois la Haut and is divided from it by a shallow 
valley. This last hill was of considerable tactical import- 
ance, since from it and from Bois La Haut observation and 
cross-fire could be brought to bear upon the ground east- 
ward about St. Symphorien. But Bois la Haut was in 
parts thickly wooded, and consequently from its northern 
end, where there were hospital buildings, there was little 
field of fire. 

West of Mons the line of the Canal is straight, and the 
actual borders are clear ; the ground on both sides of it 
is cut up by a network of artificial water-courses, chequered 
by osier-beds, for a breadth of a mile or more. But the 
opening up of the coal-measures has turned much of the 
country immediately south of this watery land into the 
hideous confusion of a mining district. The space occupied 
by the II. Corps in particular, within the quadrangle 
Mons Frameries Dour Boussu, is practically one huge 
unsightly village, traversed by a vast number of devious 
cobbled roads which lead from no particular starting-point 
to no particular destination, and broken by pit-heads and 
colossal slag-heaps, often over a hundred feet high. It is, 
in fact, a close and blind country, such as no army had yet 
been called upon to fight in against a civilised enemy in a 
great campaign. 


At 5.30 A.M., the Corps and Cavalry Division com- 
manders met the Commander-in-Chief in the Chateau at 
Sars la Bruyere, when orders were issued for the outpost 
line to be strengthened, and for the bridges over the Mons 
Canal to be prepared for demolition. The conference over, 
the Field-Marshal, at 9.15 A.M. proceeded to Valenciennes. 
The 19th Infantry Brigade had just detrained there and 
was marching to occupy the left flank of the outpost line 
on the Canal. This would thus extend nearly to Conde, 
where it was understood from a French Staff officer that 
Territorial troops would take it up. 1 The local situation, 
therefore, seemed satisfactory. For the rest, there was 
intelligence of fighting between German cavalry and French 

1 The 84th Territorial Division subsequently arrived. 

64 MONS 

Territorial infantry about Tournai, though no information 
as to its results. 

Sketch 3. In describing the general disposition of the troops it 
Map 7. mus t b e remembered that, as the Army had halted whilst 
in the course of wheeling or forming to face towards 
Nivelles, the front of the I. Corps was already turned north- 
eastward, whereas the II., upon the wheeling flank, still 
mainly faced to the north. The general front, therefore, 
formed an obtuse angle, the I. Corps being on the right half 
of the south-eastern arm, and the II. Corps round the apex 
and along the western arm. The south-eastern arm from 
Peissant to Mons was about ten miles long, and the arm 
along the Canal from Mons to Conde*, seventeen miles. The 
I. Corps was extended, roughly speaking, from the Sambre 
to the Haine ; the 1st Division being on the right, with 
the 3rd Infantry Brigade in front between Peissant and 
Haulchin (about four miles) ; the 1st (Guards) Brigade in 
rear of its right at Grand Reng and Vieux Reng ; and the 
2nd Infantry Brigade in rear of its left at Villers Sire Nicole 
and Rouveroy. The 2nd Division was on its way to take up 
the line on the left of the 1st Division from Haulchin to 
Harmignies (another four miles), and meanwhile the vacant 
place was filled by the 5th Cavalry Brigade. The ground 
in front of the right of the outpost line of the 3rd Division 
was commanded by the great bluff of Bois la Haut. This 
hill was reconnoitred for occupation by the batteries of the 
XL. Brigade R.F.A., which were billeted immediately 
behind it at Mesvin, and was secured at night by sending 
forward the 2/Royal Irish Regiment, of the 8th Infantry 
Brigade, to connect with the I. Corps at Harmignies, and 
hold the villages of Villers St. Ghislain and St. Symphorien. 
The 1 /Gordon Highlanders and 2/Royal Scots of the 
8th Infantry Brigade were in position near the Harmignies 
road from Hill 93 to the north-east corner of Bois la Haut. 
The front from Bois la Haut northwards to the apex of 
the Mons Salient, two miles, was held as an outpost line by 
the 4/Middlesex. Rough entrenchments had been thrown 
up by them during the afternoon of the 22nd, but were 
still unfinished when darkness fell. On the left of the 
4/Middlesex, the 9th Infantry Brigade held the line of the 
Canal from the Nimy bridges on the western face of the 
Mons Salient, as far as the bridge of Mariette, six miles, 
with the 4/Royal Fusiliers, 1 /Royal Scots Fusiliers and 
1 /Fifth Fusiliers. The remaining battalion, the 1 /Lincoln- 
shire, was a mile south-west of Mons at Cuesmes. The 7th 


Infantry Brigade was in reserve about Ciply, two miles 23 Aug. 
south of Mons. The rest of the artillery of the 3rd Division 1914> 
was mostly held for the present in reserve XXIII. Brigade 
R.F.A. north of Ciply, and XLII. R.F.A., together with 
the 48th Heavy Battery, at Nouvelles (1J miles east of 
Ciply). The XXX. Howitzer Brigade was still on its way 
from Valenciennes. 

Passing westward to the 5th Division, the 13th Infantry 
Brigade was posted, with a three-mile front, on the left of the 
9th, the 1 /Royal West Kent covering the bridges that span 
the Canal immediately east of St. Ghislain, with four guns of 
the 120th Field Battery in close support on the tow-path. 
On the left of the West Kents, who had dug themselves 
excellent trenches by the railway bridge, the 2/Scottish 
Borderers, with the machine guns of the 2/ Yorkshire Light 
Infantry, occupied the Canal up to, but not including, the 
railway bridge at Les Herbieres, with one company en- 
trenched on the road north of that bridge. The two remain- 
ing battalions of the 13th Infantry Brigade were held in 
reserve in St. Ghislain, in rear of the centre of the brigade 

On the left of the 13th Infantry Brigade, the 14th 
occupied the line of the Canal from the railway bridge of 
Les Herbieres westward to Pommeroeul road bridge, a 
front of 2j miles. The I/East Surrey were on the right, 
holding the railway bridge itself, with one company pushed 
across to the north bank. From the foot bridge south of 
La Hamaide, the 1 /Cornwall Light Infantry prolonged the 
front to Pommeroeul bridge. Here again a platoon, together 
with the machine-gun section, was sent across the Canal to 
form a bridgehead upon the north bank. The machine guns 
were posted to sweep the straight length of road towards 
Ville Pommeroeul ; but a clear view northward was 
obstructed by rolling stock on the railway, which crosses 
the road about a mile to north of the Canal. As the Haine 
stream, which was unfordable and had few bridges, passed 
about a mile behind this part of the line, the Cornwall Light 
Infantry had orders to hold the Canal as an advanced 
position only, and to retire when necessary to a second 
position, which the 15th Infantry Brigade was directed to 
prepare behind the Haine. The 2 /Suffolk and 2 /Man- 
chester, the remaining battalions of the 14th Infantry 
Brigade, were in reserve. The 15th Infantry Brigade was 
divided, part preparing a position on the Haine, with the 
rest in reserve further to the rear near Dour. From 


66 MONS 

Pommeroeul westward the 4th Cavalry Brigade was re- 
sponsible for the two remaining crossing-places east of 
Conde, at Lock 5 and St. Aybert, until the 19th Infantry 
Brigade should come up, and these two points were accord- 
ingly occupied by the Carabiniers. All troops were 
warned to expect an attack early next morning. 

The selection of positions along the part of the line held 
by the 5th Division was a matter of the greatest difficulty, 
the ground being a wilderness of deep ditches, straggling 
buildings, casual roads and tracks, and high slag-heaps. 
These last seemed to offer points of vantage, which were 
generally found to be non-existent when their summits had 
been explored, as they were commanded by some other 
slag-heap ; while certain of them, which seemed to promise 
all that could be desired, were found to be so hot that men 
could not stand on them. The artillery was more em- 
barrassed even than the infantry : the officers had great 
difficulty in finding suitable positions for batteries or even 
for single guns, and were equally at a loss to discover good 
observation posts. The general policy .followed was to 
push batteries or sections of batteries up to the infantry 
for close defence, and to keep the mass of the artillery, and 
particularly the heavy battery, on the left, where the guns 
could coverall open ground in anticipation of a turning move- 
ment round that flank. Altogether, the ground was such 
as to baffle the most skilful and sanguine of gunners on 
the British side. Fortunately, on the enemy side, the con- 
ditions were almost identical ; and, except on the east, 
where the ground was more open, the Germans could make 
little use of their tremendous superiority of numbers ; for 
they were about to match eight divisions against four, and 
actually in the infantry fight six against two extended 
along a front of 13 miles. In fact, the line of the II. Corps 
was so thin that it was little better than an outpost line, a 
chain of small groups, lying on the Canal bank, almost in- 
visible, as is shown in a photograph taken by a machine- 
gun officer during the battle from his flanking gun. Not 
without good reason was provision made for a retrenchment 
across the rear of the Salient and for occupying a position 
in rear of the Canal, roughly Frameries Wasmes Dour, 
should a strong attack develop. 


(a) The Salient 

The morning of Sunday the 23rd broke in mist and rain, 23 Aug. 
which, about 10 A.M., cleared off and gave place to fair 1914 - 
weather. Church bells rang, and the inhabitants of the sketches 
villages near the Canal were seen in their best attire going 2 & 3 ; 
to worship as if war was utterly distant from them. Trains ^L ps 5 
were running towards Mons crowded with the usual 
holiday makers. The mounted troops of both armies were 
however early astir. Those of the British 1st and 2nd 
Divisions, reconnoitring east of Mons towards the bridges 
of Binche, Bray, Havre and Obourg, soon encountered 
small parties of the enemy. Near Obourg they were 
pressed back, and at 6 A.M. the German cavalry exchanged 
shots with the 4/Middlesex. About the same time, other 
parties of German horse approached the Royal Fusiliers 
in the apex of the Salient, and two officers of the Ger- 
man 3rd Hussars, the corps cavalry of the ///. Corps, 
were made prisoners. Another patrol, towards Nimy, 
came in sight of the Scots Fusiliers, who killed one man, 
and identified his uniform as that of the cavalry regiment 
of the IX. Corps. Further west, two German patrols were 
caught in ambush, near Ville Pommeroeul between 6.30 and 
7 A.M., and two prisoners were taken, the one a Dragoon, 
the other a Hussar ; this indicated the presence of two 
more regiments, both of the German 9th Cavalry Division. 
The mounted troops of the British 5th Division crossed 
the Canal near the posts of the Scottish Borderers and of 
the West Kents ; and both battalions pushed a reserve 
company forward to secure their retreat. That of the 
West Kents, A Company, advanced to the road-junction 
south of the village of Tertre ; and that of the Scottish 
Borderers to a pond about half a mile north of Les Herbieres 
road bridge. Each side was feeling for the other in ex- 
pectation of the coming shock. 

There could be little doubt where the first blow would 
fall. The Germans were completing a wheel from east to 
south ; and immediately opposite to the eastern, or stand- 
ing flank of von Kluck's Army lay the Mons Salient. 
Before 9 A.M. German guns were in position on the high 
ground north of the Canal, and very soon shells were 
bursting thickly along the whole line of the Middlesex and 
the Royal Fusiliers, One German battery commander 

68 MONS 

boldly unlimbered his guns in the open, and began firing 
at a range of 1,500 yards ; but he was speedily compelled to 
shift his ground by the machine guns of the Middlesex. 
By 9 A.M. German infantry was pressing on to engage 
the Middlesex about Obourg and, as the hostile movement 
from north-east to south-west developed itself, troops, 
all apparently of the IX. Corps, gradually spread around 
the entire curve of the Salient from Obourg to Nimy. 
By 10 A.M. the company in Obourg was heavily engaged 
and, indeed, hard pressed ; and, shortly afterwards, the 
machine-gun section of the Royal Irish joined that of the 
Middlesex. Meanwhile, the Royal Fusiliers were cease- 
lessly shooting down Germans, who at first came on in 
heavy masses, but, being caught by the rapid fire of the 
Fusiliers in front and by the machine guns of the Middlesex 
and Royal Irish in flank, soon abandoned this costly method 
of attack. They then began working across the front in 
small parties, in order to form for a fresh effort under 
cover of the woods. The British troops in the Salient had 
orders to make " a stubborn resistance " ; the Middlesex 
and the Royal Fusiliers, therefore, defended themselves 
with tenacity, and until past 11 A.M. were still holding their 
original positions. 

(b) The Canal West of Mons 

Meanwhile, as the southward wheel of von Kluck's 
Army progressed, the attack gradually spread westward 
along the line of the Canal. The right of the German IX. 
Corps did not appear to extend beyond Nimy ; x and it was 
not until 11 A.M. that the ///. Corps, which was next to 
the right of it, came into action about the bridge of 
Jemappes, 2 miles west of Mons. German shells fell in 
Jemappes itself, in rear of the Scots Fusiliers ; but the 
infantry almost simultaneously advanced in heavy lines. 
The forward post of the Scots Fusiliers north of the Canal 
was thereupon withdrawn, and, as the Germans came 
nearer, they were met by a fire of rifles and machine guns 
which effectually checked their progress. After a pause they 
came on again, taking shelter behind the northern bank 
of the Canal, and actually closed to within 200 yards of the 
bridge at Lock 2, west of Jemappes, but were compelled 
by the accuracy of the British fire once more to fall back. 2 

1 This is now known to be correct (see Sketch 3 in " Mons "). 

2 Hauptniann (Professor) Heubner, of the 20th Infantry Regiment, 
5th Division, III. Corps, who witnessed the attack at Jemappes, in his 


At Marietta, 3 \ miles west of Mons, still in the 9th 23 Aug. 
Infantry Brigade area, German shells found the bridge 1914 - 
immediately, and a column of infantry in fours came swing- 
ing down a country road immediately east of it. It was 
promptly stopped by the fire of a small party, under a 
corporal, which occupied a house in the angle between 
this road and the waterway. The enemy then tried an 
advance down the main road ; but this had been obstructed 
by a wire entanglement immediately north and west of the 
bridge, and by a barricade immediately south of it ; and 
the Fifth Fusiliers were well and skilfully disposed, under 
good shelter, on both flanks of the road, both in advance 
and in rear of the bridge. Under a withering fire from 
three sides, the Germans pressed on to the wire, only to 
be brought to a standstill there, and then driven back with 
heavy loss. 

They now brought up two field guns within half a mile 
of the Canal, and opened fire with high-explosive shell upon 
the defenders of the bridge ; not without effect, for a shell 
bursting in the occupied house on the east side of the road 
killed the whole of the little garrison. But, instead of 
grey-coated soldiers, a number of little Belgian girls came 
down the road, and the Fifth Fusiliers naturally ceased 
their fire. 1 Thereupon, the Germans swarmed forward 
and, flooding over to the western side of the main road, 
were able to establish themselves within 200 yards of the 
Canal, whence they could bring an oblique fire to bear upon 
the defenders of the barricade. The advanced party of the 
Fifth on the north side of the bridge was then withdrawn ; 
but the Germans were still far from being masters of the 
passage of the Canal at Mariette ; and the Fifth Fusiliers 
for the present held their own with no great difficulty and 
without serious loss. 

Further to the left in front of St. Ghislain, A Com- 
pany of the West Kents, at the cross roads south of Tertre, 
which was in support of the 5th Divisional Mounted Troops, 
, was warned by the cyclists of the advance of the enemy in 

book " Unter Emmich vor Liittich, Unter Kluck vor Paris," pp. 69 and 74, 
speaks of the " numerous wounded " of the regiment which attempted 
to storm the railway and factory ; and at the end of the day says " that 
they [the English], in any case, fought bravely and obstinately is proved 
by the heavy losses that our German troops suffered here." 

1 Evidence of Captain B. T. St. John, commanding the company of 
I the Fifth Fusiliers which held Mariette Bridge. It is not suggested that 
the enemy drove them deliberately in front of him. In many cases 
inhabitants were caught between the two hostile lines. 

70 MONS 

force. This company had found a fair field of fire ; but the 
line of retreat to the Canal was difficult, the ground being 
cut up by many deep ditches and barbed wire fences. As 
far as time permitted, passages were cut through the 
wire, so that during its retirement the company might not 
mask the fire of the main body on the Canal ; but the 
preparations were scarcely completed before a small party 
of the cyclists came at top speed down the road from 
Tertre and reported that the Germans had brought up guns 
to drive them from the village. The leading German 
infantry regiment, the Brandenburg Grenadiers of the 5th 
Division of the ///. Corps, had, in fact, moved southward 
upon Tertre from Baudour, and the Fusilier battalion, 
which was at its head, had encountered considerable re- 
sistance from the cyclists. Five minutes after this alarm 
had reached the West Kent company (that is to say at 
about 11.10 A.M.), this Fusilier battalion debouched from 
Tertre and moved southward, the bulk of the men being in 
massed formation on the eastern side of the road to St. 
Ghislain, with parties in extended order upon either flank. 
They were met by a shattering fire of rifles and machine 
guns, and were seen to suffer heavily. The commander of 
the German regiment then made a regular attack with the 
support of artillery, deploying his two remaining battalions 
to the right and left of the Fusiliers. By the German 
account, the Brandenburgers suffered some loss in the village 
of Tertre from the British artillery, presumably from the 
guns of the 120th Battery on the Canal. Meanwhile the 
company commander received a message from the divisional 
cavalry, a squadron of the 19th Hussars, which had gone 
out in the direction of Hautrage, north-west of Tertre, 
asking him to cover its retirement ; and accordingly he 
clung to his position, while three German battalions, a 
German battery and a German machine-gun company all 
came into action against him. The pressure soon became 
so strong that he began gradually to withdraw by succession 
of platoons, the men behaving with the greatest .steadiness 
and firing with great effect as the enemy came within 
closer range. The rearmost platoon, in fact, fought its 
way out with the Germans within a hundred yards of it in 
front and upon both flanks. Eventually about half of the 
company rejoined their comrades on the Canal, the re- 
mainder having been killed or wounded, and left, in- 
evitably, to fall into the enemy's hands. This latter was 
the fate of the company commander, Captain Lister, 


and of one of his subalterns ; but his men had made a 23 Aug. 
magnificent fight and inflicted far heavier losses than they 1914 - 

Having cleared this advanced party out of their way, 
the Brandenburg Grenadiers, covered now by the fire of 
four or five field batteries, swarmed forward over the maze 
of wire fences and boggy dykes against the main positions 
of the West Kents and the Scottish Borderers on the Canal. 
The four guns of the British 120th Battery were soon 
compelled to withdraw, apparently about noon ; * though, 
later on, the remaining section found a position upon a 
slag-heap, further to the south and east, and came into 
action with considerable effect. But the positions of the 
British infantry were so well chosen and concealed that 
the German artillery failed to discover them, and hence 
the progress of the German infantry was both slow and 
costly. In any case, the attack upon the bridge of St. 
Ghislain was stopped while still three hundred yards dis- 
tant from the Canal by the accurate fire of the West Kents 
and the machine guns of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, 
and the half company of the Scottish Borderers, on the 
left of the bridge, who all alike had excellent targets, and 
took advantage of them to the full, with little loss to 
themselves. The Germans imagined that they were 
everywhere opposed by machine guns only, not realizing 
the intensity of British rapid fire. 2 

Meanwhile in the 13th Infantry Brigade area, towards 
noon, the attack spread westward to the bridges of Les 
Herbieres, where the 52nd Infantry Regiment contrived, 
with great skill, to pass men by driblets over the road 
into the reedy marshes alongside the Canal, and even to 
send one or two machine guns with them. Reinforcements 
of the 2/Duke of Wellington's and 2/Yorkshire Light 

1 See p. 65. 

2 A full and dramatic account of the attack of the Brandenburg 
Grenadier Regiment is given in " Vormarsch," by Walter Bloem, the 
novelist, who was, as a reserve officer, commanding one of the companies. 
He states that he lost all five of his company officers and half his men. 
The battalion commander said to him in the evening, *' You are my sole 
and only support . . . you are the only company commander left in the 
battalion . . . the battalion is a mere wreck, my proud, beautiful 
battalion ! " And the regiment was " shot down, smashed up only a 
handful left." Bloem adds, " Our first battle is a heavy, unheard of heavy, 
defeat, and against the English, the English we laughed at." The regi- 
ment was withdrawn a quarter of a mile as soon as it was dark, and spent 
an anxious night, for, as the colonel said, " if the English have the slight- 
est suspicion of our condition, and counter-attack, they will simply run 
over us," 

72 MONS 

Infantry were called up about 2 P.M. in closer support of 
the Scottish Borderers, and the former suffered a few 
casualties from shell fire, but their services were not re- 
quired, for the German attack had already come to a 

At the railway bridge of Les Herbieres the Germans 
of the 6th Division of the ///. Corps began by bringing a 
machine gun into action in a house about half a mile from 
the barricade put up by the East Surreys (14th Infantry 
Brigade). This was instantly silenced by one of the East 
Surreys' machine guns ; the enemy, thereupon, searched 
all the houses round the railway bridge with shell, in the 
hope of locating it. Then the Germans tried to push 
forward in small columns, which were stopped short by 
rifle and machine-gun fire, which also dispersed a group of 
German staff officers a thousand yards away and further 
to the east. The enemy then plied the East Surreys' 
defences with shrapnel and machine-gun fire for half an 
hour, causing no casualties, but disabling one machine 
gun ; after which, about 1.30 P.M., he attacked with two 
battalions of the 52nd in mass, advancing across the open at 
a range of six hundred yards. Such a target was all that 
the British could wish for ; another company of the East 
Surreys had by this time joined the one astride the embank- 
ment ; and three platoons of the Suffolks had also come up 
to cover their left flank, and their rapid rifle fire, combined 
with long bursts at selected objects from the remaining 
machine gun at the barricade, mowed down large numbers 
of the enemy and scattered the rest. At this point, 
therefore, the Germans were decisively repulsed with 
very heavy loss, and with trifling casualties to the East 

Thus far, to a point 7 miles west of Mons, the German 
attack had spread during the forenoon and the early after- 
noon ; the infantry of the ///. Corps did not extend 
further westward, while that of the IV. Corps had not yet 
had time to complete its wheel to the south, so that the 
I/Cornwall L.I. at Pommeroeul had not yet come into 


Map 7. Throughout the forenoon and the early afternoon, 
that is to say, until 2 P.M., all had remained quiet opposite 
the I. Corps, which it will be remembered faced north- 
east. Between 11 A.M. and 12.30 P.M. the 2nd Division 

I. CORPS 73 

had reached its destination, and the 6th Infantry Brigade 23 Aug. 
took position on the left of the corps between Vellereille 19 i4. 
le Sec and Harmignies, with the 4th (Guards) Brigade in 
rear of it about Harveng, and the 5th still further to the 
rear at Genly and Bougnies. The 3rd and 6th Infantry 
Brigades therefore now held the front of the I. Corps. 
About 2 P.M. German guns at some point between Binche 
and Bray, 3 miles to the north-east, opened fire upon the 
ridge of Haulchin, against the left of the 3rd Infantry 
Brigade ; and about half an hour later German cavalry x 
was seen moving across the British front north-west from 
Bray towards St. Symphorien. The 22nd and 70th Field 
Batteries, which were unlimbered about Vellereille le Sec, 
were able to shell these parties with good effect, but in return 
were heavily shelled by batteries which they were unable 
to locate. The 4th (Guards) Brigade was pushed forward 
to extend the line of the 6th from Harmignies north-west 
along the road to Mons ; and various battalions, coming 
under artillery fire in the course of the afternoon, suffered 
a few casualties. But heavy firing could be heard to the 
north about Mons ; and about 3 P.M. a message from 
Major-General Hubert Hamilton reported a serious attack 
on the 3rd Division, and asked for assistance. Though the 
situation on the right of the I. Corps was not yet clear, for 
the Germans were still shelling the 3rd Infantry Brigade 
severely, General Haig directed that two battalions of the 
4th (Guards) Brigade should take over the defence of Hill 
93 from the 3rd Division, and thus afford it some relief. 
The news brought in by the 1st and 2nd Divisional Cavalry 
at 3 P.M., that the French east of the I. Corps had been 
obliged to fall back a little, might well cause some anxiety ; 
but the more pressing danger lay on the left of the I. Corps 
in the vicinity of Mons. In every other sector of the line 
the British were holding their own with ease, and were 
punishing all attempts to force the passage of the Canal 
with considerable severity ; but in the Salient, the weakest 
and most critical point of the line, the situation was not 
equally satisfactory. 


We left the 4/Middlesex of the 8th Infantry Brigade, Map 7. 
and the 4/Royal Fusiliers of the 9th between 11 A.M. and 
noon stubbornly contesting every inch of ground from 

1 Now known to be the 16th Dragoons (see " Mons "). . 

74 MONS 

Obourg to Nimy, north-east of Mons. Brigadier-General 
B. Doran (8th Infantry Brigade) had early given orders to 
the 2/Royal Irish, whose companies had covered the ground 
in front of Hill 93 and Bois la Haut during the night, 
to assemble north of the latter hill, and by noon the entire 
battalion was collected there. Just about that time, the 
Middlesex at Obourg, finding that the Germans were getting 
in rear of them, began to fall back westward through 
the Bois d'Havre, the wood just south of Obourg. 
Simultaneously the Germans began to shell the main line 
of the 8th Infantry Brigade, south-east of Mons, with 
shrapnel, but very inaccurately, for they could not see 
the position of the Royal Scots along the Harmignies 
Mons road, and the majority of the Gordon Highlanders 
were hidden from view. Their infantry then advanced 
by rushes obliquely across the front of these two battalions, 
heading for Hill 93 and offering excellent targets. The 
rifles of both battalions were soon effectively employed, 
whilst the machine guns of the Royal Scots, thrown 
slightly forward in a quarry about the centre of the line, 
poured in a deadly enfilade fire. The 49th Battery also 
contributed to the enemy's discomfiture by firing shrapnel 
from Bois la Haut. To be brief, in this quarter the 
enemy was brought to a standstill three hundred yards 
from the British trenches. 

Within the Salient the conditions were very different. 
The Germans shortly after noon succeeded in passing 
the Canal west of Obourg, and in reaching the railway ; 
then, taught by hard experience, they abandoned massed 
formation and advanced in extended order. At 12.30 P.M. 
the Royal Irish were ordered to reinforce the Middlesex 
and, moving off under heavy fire of artillery and machine 
guns in the direction of Hill 62, deployed on the left of 
the Middlesex. It was nearly 1.30 P.M. before they reached 
their position, for they were always under a storm of 
German shells, without any support from the British 
artillery. Anything in the nature of a local .counter- 
attack to relieve the Middlesex was out of the question, 
owing to wire fences and other obstacles. Far from gaining 
ground, the Royal Irish could only just hold their own. 
They now shifted their machine guns, which had previously 
been massed with those of the Middlesex, to the extreme 
right of their own front. They had not long been there 
when a body of Uhlans debouched from a wood about six 
hundred yards east of them, and was instantly met by 


fire from both rifles and machine guns. The German 23 Aug. 
horsemen turned about but, as they retired, were caught 1914 - 
in flank by the fire of some of the Middlesex falling back 
from Obourg. This, however, though satisfactory, was 
but a trifling incident. The IX. Corps was attacking in 
earnest ; and it was for the Royal Irish and the Middlesex 
to maintain a " stubborn resistance." 

The situation of these two battalions was precarious 
in the extreme, for they were not, as were the Royal Scots, 
in a well concealed position which the German artillery 
could not exactly locate, and with a good field of fire before 
them. On the contrary, their ground was under good 
observation from the heights on the north of the Canal ; 
and the German batteries, 1 having complete ascendancy, 
kept them under heavy fire. Under the protection of this 
fire, the German infantry slowly gained ground by sheer 
weight of numbers, but not without loss. Shortly after 
2 P.M. the machine-gun section of the Royal Irish tried 
to come into action on the road about three hundred 
yards north of Bois la Haut, but one gun was at once 
disabled and had to be abandoned. Returning to the 
original position, the remaining gun again came into 
action, but called down upon itself a concentrated fire 
of guns and machine guns, which disabled it immediately 
and killed or wounded every man of the section. The 
machine guns of the Middlesex were also in trouble, for 
the Germans had brought up at least six of these weapons 
against them, and the officer in command of the section 
had been wounded, though he still remained in charge 
of his men. By 3.15 P.M. the German infantry, in great 
force, was within a furlong of the Royal Irish and working 
round both flanks ; and then, after consultation with 
Colonel Hull of the Middlesex, Major St. Leger who was 
in command decided to withdraw the Royal Irish some 
fifteen hundred yards southward to the northern slopes 
of Bois la Haut. The right of their line moved first ; 
meanwhile the remainder were collected into two bodies : 
one by Colonel Hull on the northern slopes of the hill, 
and the other at its north-eastern corner. The latter 
helped greatly to cover the retreat, which was conducted 
methodically and in good order ; and the battalion finally 
rallied on the left of the left company of the Gordons 
whose line now extended almost to the cross roads north 

1 Of the 18th Division between St. Denis and Masieres, 3 miles north- 
east of Mons. 

76 MONS 

of Bois la Haut, the time being then about 4 P.M. The 
shelling was still very heavy, and the cross roads them- 
selves were swept by machine guns from the east, though 
some buildings at that point and the ground west of 
the cross roads gave some protection from bullets. A 
section of the 49th Battery unlimbered on the left of 
the Royal Irish and, though greatly exposed, gave them 
some support. 

The Middlesex fell back about the same time as the 
Royal Irish, between them and the 9th Infantry Brigade 
in Mons, though, being more widely extended, they were 
less easily re-formed. One company, on leaving the Bois 
d'Havre, which lies south of Obourg, entered the deserted 
rifle pits of the Royal Irish and there for a time stood 
fast. But the retreat of both battalions was facilitated 
by the fate of the first German attack upon the hill of 
Bois la Haut itself. This attack was opened by about 
a company of German infantry, which, with scouts in 
front of it, emerged gradually from a wood against the 
left centre company of the Gordons. The Highlanders 
allowed the scouts to advance and held their fire until 
greater numbers appeared ; then they opened rapid fire 
at five hundred yards' range, and in a few minutes stopped 
the attack with heavy loss. Thereby a short respite was 
gained, which enabled the retiring battalions to settle 
down in their new positions. 

Meanwhile, at 2 P.M. the Royal Fusiliers, in obedience 
to Brigadier-General Shaw's (9th Infantry Brigade) orders, 
withdrew southwards from Nimy, the supporting companies 
covering the retirement of the advanced companies with 
peacetime precision. Their losses did not greatly exceed 
one hundred; and after re-forming in Mons the battalion 
moved southward again to Ciply. 1 The Lincolnshire had 
been employed since noon in barricading the three roads 
that lead from Mons to the south, but the Germans did 
not follow the Royal Fusiliers very closely ; and when they 
at last tried to debouch by the main road from Mons, 
they were met by a destructive fire from the Lincolnshire 
at the barricade and by a few shells from the 109th 
Battery at close range. Unable to make any progress, 
they turned westward, leaving the Lincolnshire to retire 

1 Lieut. M. J. Dease (who died of wounds) and Private S. F. Godley 
of the 4/Royal Fusiliers were awarded the Victoria Cross for the manner 
in which they fought the machine guns. All the men of two crews were 
killed or wounded. 


at their leisure by Mesvin upon Nouvelles, 3 miles south 23 Aug. 
of Mons. 1914. 


About 3 P.M. the Scots Fusiliers (9th Infantry Brigade) Map 7. 
likewise fell back by order, through Jemappes upon 
Frameries, 3 miles from the Canal ; but here, since the 
bridge had not been destroyed, the Germans followed hard 
after, and there was sharp righting along the road and 
among the slag-heaps north of Frameries. Some of the 
Fusiliers, firing from the houses, used their weapons with 
special effect ; but two companies, which were entangled 
among the slag-heaps, suffered much from machine guns 
which the Germans had instantly brought forward, and 
for a time were in serious difficulties, the ground being 
most unfavourable either for defence or for the co- 
operation of artillery. About 4 P.M., however, the two 
supporting companies of the Fifth Fusiliers, the left of 
the 9th Infantry Brigade, whose orders to retire from 
Mariette had reached them rather late, struck in from 
the west upon the flank of the Germans, and, after some 
fighting, enabled the Scots Fusiliers to extricate them- 
selves and to re-form within the village. The German 
guns were sufficiently far advanced to shell the position 
of the South Lancashire (7th Infantry Brigade), a mile 
north of Frameries, but only one or two small parties of 
infantry approached it. The forward companies of the 
Fifth Fusiliers meanwhile stuck to their position on the 
Canal, in spite of the command to retire, in order to cover 
the Engineers who were preparing the bridge of Mariette 
for destruction. Despite the extraordinary coolness and 
gallantry of Captain Wright, 1 who swung himself forward, 
hand over hand, under the bridge to connect the charges, 
the work could not be effected, though he made a second 
attempt after being wounded in the head. It was riot until 
5 P.M. that the withdrawal of the Sappers, after collecting 
all their gear, permitted these two companies of the Fifth 
to retire towards Frameries ; but the Germans made no 
effort to press them and, in fact, did not immediately 
cross the bridge. 

1 The late Captain T. Wright, R.E., received the Victoria Cross for this 
service. Lance-Corporal C. A. Jarvis, 57th Field Company, R.E., also 
received it for working 1J hours under heavy fire and successfully firing 
the charges at Jemappes bridge. 

78 MONS 

Further to the left, the 13th Infantry Brigade still 
held its position on the Canal, though the fire of the German 
artillery steadily increased in the course of the afternoon. 
The enemy, in fact, pushed forward three batteries to 
within twelve hundred yards of the Canal about St. Ghislain, 
and smothered the 13th Infantry Brigade with shells, but 
did remarkably little damage. Indeed, it was not until 
the Germans, about 6 P.M., brought up guns within close 
range and destroyed the barricade over Les Herbieres road 
bridge that the Scottish Borderers withdrew to the southern 
bank, the 17th Field Co. R.E. blowing up the bridge 
behind them. The railway bridge was blown up at the 
same time ; and this was the signal for the destruction 
of the road bridge near La Hamaide, further west, covered 
by the East Surreys (14th Infantry Brigade), who there- 
upon withdrew their advanced parties north of the Canal. 
The battalion then retired by alternate companies to the 
position ordered near Thulin, south of the Haine. Never- 
theless in this quarter, the Germans were unable to make 
the slightest progress, and, indeed, at dusk the West 
Kents were still holding their position north of the Canal. 1 
On the left of the East Surreys the Cornwall Light 
Infantry were left wholly undisturbed until 4.45 P.M. when 
a mass of German cavalry coming down the road from 
Ville Pommeroeul was driven back headlong by machine- 
gun and rapid rifle fire. Immediately afterwards, the 
advanced parties were recalled to the southern bank of the 
Canal ; the bridge was then blown up by the 59th Field Co. 
R.E., and all fell back across the Haine to the second 

On the extreme left, the 19th Infantry Brigade relieved 
the Cavalry Division between 2 and 3 P.M., the I/Middlesex 
and the Cameronians taking up the line to Conde. Soon 
after 5 P.M. an attack was made upon Lock 5, when 
the enemy contrived to mount a machine gun in a house 
commanding the buildings. The lock bridge was therefore 
blown up, but the I/Middlesex, though they abandoned 
the buildings, continued to hold their own without difficulty 
and with trifling loss. 


Map 7. Such, therefore, was the condition of affairs west of the 
Salient whilst the 2/Royal Irish and 4/Middlesex were 

1 See footnote 2, p. 71. 


defending their second position north of Bois la Haut ; the 23 
facts most important to them were, that the Germans, in con- 1914 
sequence of the retirement " by order " of the 9th Infantry 
Brigade, were defiling through Mons, though checked 
for a time at its southern border, and had nearly reached 
Frameries, 3 miles south-west of the town. About 5 P.M. 
the main body of the Royal Irish was again forced to retire. 
By that time those of the Middlesex who had occupied the 
rifle pits of the Royal Irish were overwhelmed by the 
attacking swarms of Germans, many of their rifles being 
so much clogged with sand as to be useless. Then came 
the turn of their machine-gun section which, with the water 
boiling furiously in the jackets of the guns, fired away its 
last rounds of ammunition into the masses of the enemy, 
and was then overpowered. Having no other position in 
rear that offered any field of fire, the main body of the 
Royal Irish re-formed west of the northern end of Bois la 
Haut, their withdrawal being assisted by the left company 
of the Gordons. Here the 4/Middlesex passed through 
them and, taking the first road to the westward, marched 
towards Hyon (J mile west of Bois la Haut) on their way 
to Nouvelles, their place in the second position. The Royal 
Irish started back along the same road, but had not 
proceeded far before they found the enemy ahead of 
them little more than a hundred yards away. Cramped 
between the steep slope of Bois la Haut and a tangle of 
buildings on the other side of the road, deployment was 
impossible ; and the battalion was obliged to turn north- 
ward and to work round the hill to its south-eastern angle. 
Here the guns of the 6th Battery, expecting an attack 
every minute, were disposed in a semi-circle, and the Royal 
Irish, together with a platoon of the Gordons which was 
acting as escort to the battery, entrenched themselves 
about the guns, facing north, west, and south. The enemy 
followed them up, but, being in no great strength, did not 
venture to attack. 

Meanwhile, the 23rd Battery had received orders to 
retire from the summit of Bois la Haut, and selected as 
its route a sunken lane leading due south into the main 
road to Hyon. Proceeding that way, the head of the 
battery had reached a point within a hundred yards of 
the main Hyon road, when the leading teams and drivers 
were all shot down by German infantry, who had come 
through Mons and were hidden behind a barricade at right 
angles to the end of the lane. The gunners went forward 

80 MONS 

to engage the enemy with rifles, and, being joined by the 
battery escort of the Gordon Highlanders, drove the 
Germans back into Hyon with some loss. The enemy's 
barricade was then occupied, and a second barricade thrown 
up a little east of it ; some adjoining buildings were placed 
in a state of defence ; and, while all ranks gave themselves 
to the task of clearing the lane, the major in command of 
the battery went off to find Brigadier-General B. Doran 
(8th Infantry Brigade). Although the light had now begun 
to fail, the 23rd Battery was still in an unenviable situa- 
tion. Moreover, the Germans seemed bent upon pinning 
the 8th Infantry Brigade to its ground, for between 7 and 
8 P.M. they launched a general attack, without any pre- 
liminary bombardment, against the whole front of the 
Gordons and Royal Scots along the Harmignies Mons 
road. The attenuated line of the Royal Scots had since 
4 P.M. been reinforced by two companies of the Irish Rifles 
from the 7th Infantry Brigade, and the entire front blazed 
into a burst of rapid fire, which cut the Germans down by 
scores and brought them instantly to a complete stand- 
still. 1 The enemy then drew off, but some of them assemb- 
ling about the cross roads north-east of Bois la Haut, were 
dispersed anew by the fire of the little party of the Royal 
Irish installed there. Still, the general situation of the 
8th Infantry Brigade was insecure ; the enemy, as he had 
just demonstrated, was in force on its front, and in its rear 
parties had penetrated through Mons as far as Hyon. 


Map 7. For the better understanding of the general position of 
the British, it will be as well to review their line from the 
Salient westward, as it stood at nightfall. Of the 3rd 
Division, the position of the 8th Infantry Brigade has just 
been described ; it was the apex of the new front. The 
7th and 9th Infantry Brigades were entrenched on its left 
between Nouvelles and Frameries three miles from the 
Canal ; and the guns had been withdrawn from Erebus to 
the vicinity of Frameries for the night. Of the 5th Divi- 
sion, on the left of the 3rd, in the 13th Infantry Brigade 
the West Kents were still in their position on the Canal, 
with orders to retire three miles south-east to Wasmes at 
midnight. They had lost little more than a hundred men ; 

1 The 75th Regiment lost 5 officers and 376 men in this attack. See 
" Mons," pp. 33, 34. 


and from five to six hundred yards to their front the 23 Aug. 
Brandenburg Grenadiers, who had suffered heavy loss, had 1914. 
entrenched themselves in the marshy meadows on the 
north bank. On the left of the West Kents, the Scottish 
Borderers had just withdrawn their advanced companies 
from the north of the Canal, and had repulsed, with great 
slaughter, an attempt of the Germans to debouch in mass 
from a wood opposite the left of their main line. The 
bridges over the Canal on their front had been blown up, 
and the Scottish Borderers were also preparing to march 
to Wasmes, some of the Yorkshire Light Infantry coming 
forward to cover the movement. There was no sign of 
any pursuit by the Germans, though the demolished bridge 
was not impassable for an enterprising enemy. Opposite 
Les Herbieres the East Surreys and the remainder of the 
14th Infantry Brigade had joined, or were in the act of 
joining, the Cornwall Light Infantry in the second position 
south of the Haine. Here the enemy, after suffering 
severely while passing the Canal from the machine guns 
of the Cornwall Light Infantry and the Manchesters, was 
firing away an immense amount of ammunition with very 
little result. On the extreme left, the 19th Infantry 
Brigade was still in position on the bank of the Canal. 

Thus it will be observed that there was no uniformity 
of movement from the outpost line on the Canal to the 
main position in rear ; the characteristic obstinacy of the 
British infantry, which has always fought on without much 
regard to what was happening in other parts of the field, 
was thus early made manifest, in spite of the efforts of 
the Staff to co-ordinate the withdrawal. The 13th In- 
fantry Brigade did not attempt to retire until night, 
though the brigades to the right and left of it fell back in 
the afternoon. The 19th Infantry Brigade also stood fast. 
As a result of the retirement of the two divisions from the 
outpost line on the Canal to the position south of Mons, 
the left of the 3rd Division remained as heretofore on the 
road between Frameries and Cuesmes, but the right of the 
5th Division extended no further than to the road from 
Quaregnon to Paturages ; and between the inner flanks of 
the divisions there was a gap, almost entirely covered by 
houses, of some two miles. This gap had been foreseen 
by II. Corps Headquarters, and more than one message 
passed early in the afternoon between it and G.H.Q. and 
the Staff of the I. Corps with reference to using the 5th 
Infantry Brigade to fill it, as this brigade was close at hand 

VOL. i G 

82 MONS 

in reserve near Genly, in rear of Frameries. As a first 
measure, General Smith-Dorrien ordered the 1/Bedfords 
from the 15th Infantry Brigade to Paturages, and, later 
on, three battalions of the 5th Infantry Brigade arrived 
from the I. Corps, in compliance with his request. Two 
battalions of the 4th (Guards) Brigade had moved up late 
in the evening to Hill 93, and were in touch with the Royal 
Scots, thus completing the junction between I. and II. 
Corps. The only thing that still remained in doubt was 
the fate of part of the 8th Infantry Brigade and the artillery 
with it. At 9 P.M. orders were issued by Brigadier-General 
B. Doran to fall back to the new position at Nouvelles. 
The party of the Royal Irish at the cross-roads, having 
clung to their little stronghold till 10 P.M., joined the 
Gordons, bringing with them one of the battalion machine 
guns, which had been repaired from the wreck of the other. 
The 6th Battery guns were man-handled to the foot of 
Bois la Haut ; and the teams were then hooked in, and 
two temporarily abandoned 18-pdrs. were also brought 
away. These guns and the Royal Irish were the first to 
move off, about 11 P.M., and meanwhile the 23rd Battery 
had been working hard to clear the lane and extricate its 
guns. Soon after dark a strong German patrol was 
driven off, with loss, from the barricade ; and by 10 P.M. 
the road was free and the battery ready to march. 
Shortly afterwards the battery commander returned, having 
walked through some German troops, and by his orders the 
battery drove off as noiselessly as possible the Germans 
being within three hundred yards of it eastward to the 
Beaumont road and thence, by Spiennes, to Nouvelles. 
At midnight the Gordon Highlanders marched off, the 
Royal Scots opening fire to drown the tramp of men and 
the clatter of vehicles ; and the 23rd Battery overtook 
them on their way. The Royal Scots then withdrew, 
company by company, and before 3 A.M. on the 24th the 
whole of the 8th Infantry Brigade, together with the three 
batteries attached to it, was safe in Nouvelles. The 
casualties of the Royal Scots and Gordons had been 
trifling ; but those of the Royal Irish and of the 4/Middle- 
sex exceeded three hundred and four hundred, respectively. 
Altogether, the British commanders were not ill- 
satisfied with the day's work. The unsatisfactory position 
on the Canal had been imposed upon them fortuitously; 
but it had been held for a sufficient time, and had 
been evacuated, without great difficulty or disaster, in 


favour of a second position only a mile or two in rear. 23 Aug. 
The men, too, were in high spirits, for they had met superior 1914( - 
numbers of the most highly renowned army in the world 
and had given a good account of themselves. The 
casualties of the British amounted to just over sixteen 
hundred of all ranks, killed, wounded and missing. The 
whole of these, except forty, were sustained by the II. 
Corps, and practically half of them by two battalions of 
the 8th Infantry Brigade in the Salient. 1 The only loss of 
artillery was that of two guns of the 120th Battery, which 
could not be removed from their exposed position on the 
Canal at St. Ghislain. 

The general result of the action was that the German 
advance was delayed a whole day. Von Kluck's orders 
for the 23rd August directed the ///. and IV. Corps to 
" occupy the rising ground on the southern side of the 
Canal," whilst the IX. Corps was to advance via Mons to 
the north and north-western front of Maubeuge. The 
positions prescribed for the 23rd were actually the limits 
of advance on the 24th, as will be seen. 

A German general has summed the action up in these 
words : 2 

"The German First Army was so near to Field Marshal 
French that there was some rear-guard fighting on and south of 
the canal, particularly near Mons. This only slightly delayed 
the English retirement, but cost the Germans some losses." 

Judged by the units whose casualties are now known, the 
losses must have been very heavy. And this is confirmed 
by the behaviour of the Germans as it grew dusk. The 
success in the Salient against the 8th Infantry Brigade 
was not exploited. No enemy appeared elsewhere either 
to take advantage of the gaps that presented themselves 
in the British line or to embarrass the retirement. As at 
the close of a manoeuvre day, German bugles, to the 
astonishment of the British troops near the Canal, were 
heard to sound the " cease fire," repeating it along the 
line unit by unit, and then, after some little singing at one 
place, all was quiet. But the enemy showed his nervous- 
ness and fear of a night attack by the constant discharge 

1 It may be of interest to note that the strength of the 3rd and 5th 
Divisions, those principally engaged at Mons, was just under 36,000 ; the 
strength of the British Army at the battle of Waterloo was 31,585 (Welling- 
ton Despatches, xii. pp. 485-7). 

2 Lieut.-General von Zwehl in " Militar Wochenblatt " No. 36, of 
September 1919. For the German formations in action at Mons see later in 
this Chapter. 

84 MONS 

of illuminating flares, which the British soldier then saw 
for the first time. 

Sketch s. There was no real anxiety at G.H.Q., therefore, except 
Maps 3 as regards events further east. During the day the 
& 5 * Flying Corps had reported fighting about Charleroi, two 
powerful German columns moving south-westward from 
Charleroi and from Luttre, and a heavy engagement at 
Thuin, the left of the French Fifth Army. Another report, 
which came to hand soon after 5 P.M., stated that Tournai 
appeared to be in the enemy's hands, and that a long 
column of all arms was moving southward through Ladeuze 
(13 miles west of Soignies), Grosage and Neufmaison 
towards Ville Pommeroeul. 1 The conclusion to which 
this intelligence tended was, that the enemy would prob- 
ably continue to develop his attack during the night and 
upon the following day. At 8.40 P.M. this conclusion was 
embodied in a message from Sir John French to the II. 
Corps : "I will stand the attack on the ground now 
" occupied by the troops. You will therefore strengthen 
" your position by every possible means during the night." 
Further information, however, which arrived from 
French Headquarters during the evening and just before 
midnight, led the British Commander-in- Chief to decide 
that his position in advance of the general line was stra- 
tegically untenable, and that an immediate retirement was 
necessary. He thereby escaped, to use the enemy's words, 
a " veritable wasps' nest " 2 and his action fell in with the 
wishes of General Joffre, official notification of which 
reached him next day shortly after 1 P.M. in two messages. 
The first message was to the effect that the French 
commander had decided that his Fifth Army should man- 
oeuvre in retreat and rest its left on the fortress of Mau- 
beuge, and its right on the wooded massif of the Ardennes, 
remaining in liaison with the British Expeditionary Force 
by means of cavalry. The second pointed out the desira- 
bility of delaying the advance of the enemy between 
Maubeuge Valenciennes, and gave Cambrai as the general 
direction of retirement for the British if the enemy should 
appear in superior force, with their right on Le Cateau, 
and their left on the water line Denain Bouchain Arleux. 
G.H.Q. informed General Joffre that the British Force 
was falling back slowly to the position Maubeuge Valen- 
ciennes, and that, if driven from this, it would act in 
accordance with his wishes. 

1 The German IV. Corps. ~ Lieut.-General von Zwehl. 


The reason for these messages was sufficiently cogent. 23 Aug. 
As a result of his operations on the 23rd, General de Langle 114- 
de Gary had ordered a general retirement of the French 
Fourth Army on the 24th to the line Montmedy Sedan 
Mezieres, that is, the line of the Chiers and Meuse. In 
consequence of the failure of the Fourth Army to get 
forward, General Lanrezac's right flank on the Meuse was 
not only exposed to the attack of, but was actually attacked 
by, the German Third Army from the east, whilst the Ger- 
man Second Army advanced against his main force near 
Charleroi from the north ; on the night of the 23rd/24th he 
therefore ordered the French Fifth Army to commence 
retiring before daybreak south of the general line Givet 
Phillippeville Beaumont Maubeuge, with its left, the 
XVIII. Corps, about Solre le Chateau, 22 miles south- 
east of Mons. General Valabregue, hearing of the attack 
on the XVIII. Corps near Thuin on the 23rd, had 
assembled his Reserve divisions that night near Cousolre, 
10 miles due east of Maubeuge. There was therefore not 
only a considerable gap between the Allied forces, but the 
French were preparing a retirement that might increase it. 


The monograph " Die Schlacht bei Mons," published 
by the German General Staff at the end of 1919, gives a 
very clear account of the fight, with excellent maps showing 
the attacks of the different corps. According to this, sketch 3. 
3J divisions (the 17th, 18th, 6th and part of 5th) of the Map 5. 
First Army attacked the British 3rd Division, and 2J 
(part of 5th, the 7th and 8th) the British 5th Division. 

The IX. Corps (17th and 18th Divisions) attacked south- 
west towards Mons on the front Villers Ghislain Nimy. On 
its right came the ///. Corps (6th and 5th Divisions) against 
Jemappes and Les Herbieres and, further west, as far as 
Lock No. 5, the IV. Corps (7th and 8th Divisions). At 
nightfall the VII. Corps of the Second Army, on the left of 
the IX., had got no further than Binche, and the //. Corps, 
on the right of the IV., was some 15 miles north of Conde, 
still marching southwards heading for that town, with the 
II. Cavalry Corps on its right facing westwards towards 
Tour coing Roubaix Lille . 

It was part of the 17th Division Artillery (six batteries) 
behind Villers Ghislain, and possibly some of the VII. Corps 
Artillery, covered by the 16ih Dragoons and a Fusilier 

86 MONS 

battalion, which fired on the I. Corps as related in the 

The German account is frank enough ; it states : " Well 
" entrenched and completely hidden, the enemy opened a 
"murderous fire . . . the casualties increased . . . the 
"rushes became shorter, and finally the whole advance 
"stopped .... with bloody losses, the attack gradually 
" came to an end." As soon as it got dark the Germans 
gladly stopped. 

In the 17th Division the 75th (Bremen) Regiment lost 
5 officers and 376 men in one attack. 1 This division made 
no attempt to advance after dusk fell. 

In the 18th Division at the beginning of darkness the 
brigades dug in on the line they had reached, and bivouacked. 

The 6th Division got across the Canal, but towards 
7 P.M. all attempts to advance failed, and the division went 
into bivouac. " Fighting posts, pushed a few hundred 
yards out, protected the tired troops." 

The 5th Division failed to get across the Canal. One 
of its regiments, the 12th Brandenburg Grenadiers, whose 
attack on the West Kents has been referred to, had lost "25 
officers and far more than 500 N.C.O.'s and men," when 
"the summer night settled on the blood-stained battle- 
" field and with its shade gave a protecting curtain against 
" the hostile fire." It was this division whose singing was 
heard : to cheer themselves, the men sang " Deutschland 
iiber alles." 

The IV. Corps did not cross the Canal during the battle. 
Some patrols managed to get over after midnight, but 
" up to 9 P.M. the enemy fire was as strong as ever." 

Von Kluck, according to the General Staff account, 
" after the stubborn defence of the enemy, especially 
" opposite the ///. Corps, expected that the British would 
" offer energetic resistance again next day on the high ground 
"south of Mons. He therefore resolved to continue the 
" attack next day enveloping the left flank, with the inten- 
" tion of cutting off the enemy's retreat to the west." 2 The 
II. Cavalry Corps was ordered south to assist. Von Kluck, 
in his version of his orders, adds " The attack will be so 
directed as to force the enemy into Maubeuge." 

1 See p. 80. 
2 Kuhl, " Marne," p. 70, confirms this. 




(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, & 8) 

THE night of the 23rd/24th August passed without serious Sketch 3. 
disturbance of any kind from the enemy ; and at dawn on M*P S 6 
the 24th the Army occupied a line facing roughly north- 
east, seventeen miles long, with the centre some three 
miles south of Mons. The exact positions from right to 
left were : 


1st Division 

5th Cavalry Brigade 

2nd Division : 

6th Infantry Brigade 

4th do. 

5th do. 

2 /Conn aught Rangers 


3rd Division : 

8th Infantry Brigade 
7th do. 

9th do. 

5th Division : 

I/Bedford (15th I.B.) 
13th Infantry Brigade 
I/Dorset (15th I.E.) 
14th Infantry Brigade 
15th do. 

(less two battalions) 

19th Infantry Brigade . 

Cavalry Division . 

. Grand Reng, Rouveroy, Givry. 
. Givry. 

. Harmignies. 
. Harveng. 
. Paturages. 
. Bougnies. 

. Nouvelles. 


. Framenes. 

. Paturages. 

. Hornu Bois de Boussu. 

. Champ des Sarts Hornu. 
(Thulin, filouges, Audregnies, 
\ Quievrain. 


88 MONS 

It must be remembered that the bulk of the Army had 
been subjected to great fatigue. The 1st Division, though 
scarcely engaged, had been hurried into its place by a forced 
march during the night of the 22nd/23rd and had been 
under arms for eighteen hours before it could billet or 
bivouac. Of the II. Corps, the 8th Infantry Brigade had 
been fighting all day, and the greater part of it got no rest 
until the early morning of the 24th. The 9th Infantry 
Brigade could not get into billets at Frameries until late. 
The 13th Infantry Brigade did not reach its assigned 
position much before daylight on the 24th, and the 14th 
Infantry Brigade was little earlier. The 15th Infantry 
Brigade fared better, though it did not settle down until 
midnight. The 19th Infantry Brigade had only just 
left the train at Valenciennes, when it was hurried up to 
take over a section of the outpost line. Altogether, the 
circumstances were very trying for the reservists, who 
formed 60 per cent, of the infantry, and were for the most 
part still out of condition. 

Map . Shortly after 11 P.M. on the 23rd the senior General Staff 
officers of the I. and II. Corps and the Cavalry Division, 
in view of a possible retirement, had been summoned to 
General Headquarters at Le Cateau. There about 1 A.M. 
the Chief of the General Staff explained that it was the in- 
tention of Sir John French to make a general retreat south- 
wards of about eight miles to an east and west line, pre- 
viously reconnoitred, from La Longueville (five miles west 
of Maubeuge) westward through Bavai and four miles 
beyond it to the hamlet of La Boiserette, 1 a front of 
about seven miles. He instructed the General Staff 
officers that the corps were to retire in mutual co-operation, 
the actual order of retirement to be settled by the two 
corps commanders in consultation. Brigadier - General 
Forestier - Walker left immediately for II. Corps Head- 
quarters, thirty-five miles off, by motor car ; but the I. 
Corps was in telegraphic communication with G.H.Q., and 
Brigadier-General J. E. Gough could therefore send off a 
message at once, which reached General Haig about 2 A.M. 
He was able to give the additional information that the I. 
Corps was to cover the retirement of the II., the cavalry 
simultaneously making a demonstration, and that the 
roads through Maubeuge were not open to the British. 
G.H.Q. further suggested that the left of the I. Corps 
should receive particular attention, and that the line from 

1 Misspelt La Bois Crette on some maps. 


Bonnet (six miles north of Maubeuge) westwards to 24 Aug. 
Blaregnies should be firmly established before the British 1914> 
left was withdrawn. Actually, it was mid-day before the 
corps commanders found opportunity to meet and arrange 
how these suggestions should be put into practice. 


In the meantime, however, to carry out the orders the Map o 
I. Corps detailed a special rear guard, composed of the 
5th Cavalry Brigade, J Battery, the XXXVI. and XLI. 
Brigades R.F.A., and the 4th (Guards) Brigade, under the 
command of Brigadier-General Home, R.A., of the corps 
staff. It was to concentrate at Bonnet and make an 
offensive demonstration at daybreak, so as to delay the 
enemy's leading troops whilst the 1st and 2nd Divisions 
fell back. 

To save time, General Haig motored to 1st and 2nd 
Divisional Headquarters and in person issued orders for 
them to retire by two roads on Feignies and Bavai. The 
main body of the 1st Division marched off at 4 A.M., un- 
molested, except by a little ineffective shelling, and by a 
few small bodies of cavalry, which were roughly handled 
by the infantry and the artillery. The 2nd Division 
followed at 4.45 A.M. and was equally undisturbed. Even 
the rear guard was not really troubled : x the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade retired by successive echelons from Harveng and 
Bougnies to a position two miles back between Quevy le 
Petit and Genly, pursued by heavy but ineffectual bursts 
of shrapnel. The 5th Cavalry Brigade covered the ground 
on the left of the Guards from Vellereille le Sec westward, 
through Harmignies and Nouvelles, to Ciply, under similar 
ineffective shelling ; there was no real pressure from the 
enemy. Here, for the present, we will leave the rear 

The main bodies of the divisions reached their destina- 
tions at Feignies, La Longueville and Bavai between 9 
and 10 P.M., with no further mishap than the loss of tools 
and other articles which had been unloaded by the regi- 
mental transport and could not be re-loaded in time. None 
the less, the men were extremely fatigued ; they had had 
little rest for over sixty hours ; the country was close and 
cramped, and the day had been exceedingly hot ; there had 

1 As will be seen in the account of the German operations on the 24th, 
no orders were issued for pursuit in this part of the field till 8 A.M. 

90 MONS 

been constant deployments and labour at entrenching 
inseparable from a retreat ; so that the men suffered greatly 
from weariness and want of sleep. Yet one battalion 
commander records on this date : - :t We had marched 
" 59 miles in the last 64 hours, beginning the march in 
" the middle of an entirely sleepless night and getting only 
" 8 hours altogether during the other two nights. Many 
" men could hardly put one leg before another, yet they all 
" marched in singing. The other battalions of the brigade 
" did not arrive till long after dark, but they also marched 
" in singing." 


Maps 3, 6, The comparative ease with which the I. Corps was able 
& 7 to withdraw was far from reassuring, for it might indicate 
that the Germans intended to make a decisive turning 
effort further west, as, indeed, was their plan ; and soon 
after 6 A.M. an aeroplane which had been sent out at 
dawn brought information that was not calculated to 
diminish the anxiety of the Commander-in-Chief : A 
column, from five to ten miles long, had been seen at 
4.30 A.M. moving south from Leuze towards Peruwelz, 
having changed direction, at Leuze, off the road that runs 
westward from Ath to Tournai. This could hardly mean 
anything less than a German division ; x and the line of 
march from Peruwelz to Conde would carry it to the west 
of the extreme western flank of the British Army. Nothing, 
however, was known of this at 4 A.M. at the commencement 
of the British retreat ; and the first movements of the II. 
Corps were naturally made in complete ignorance of it. 
General Smith-Dorrien, in pursuance of the Commander- 
in-Chief's original orders, had made his dispositions before 
dawn to withstand another German attack on the ground on 
which his corps had spent the night. These dispositions 
proved of advantage for gaining time when the instructions 
to retire arrived ; for, before the II. Corps could retreat, 
it was imperative that the roads should be cleared of all 
transport and impedimenta, and the orders to that effect 
did not filter down to the brigades of the 3rd Division 
before 4.30 A.M. Meanwhile, before dawn, the Germans 
had already opened a heavy bombardment against the 
right of the II. Corps ; and within an hour the fire extended 
westwards along the whole length of the line, and by 
1 It was the //. Corps (see " Mons," Sketch 2). 


5.15 A.M. a general infantry attack was rapidly developing. 24 Aug. 
At 5.30 A.M. the commander of the 3rd Division became 1914 - 
aware that the main body of the I. Corps was retiring, and 
sent a staff officer to reconnoitre a second position further 
to the south. Half an hour later he despatched orders to 
the 8th Infantry Brigade, the right of his line, to withdraw 
from Nouvelles. 1 

Beyond the shelling, which did no damage, the 8th 
Infantry Brigade had been little troubled ; the German 
infantry did not show itself at all ; and at 8 A.M. the 
brigade began its march southward upon Genly. The 
7th Infantry Brigade about Ciply, and the 9th Infantry 
Brigade at Frameries, when they began to move in their 
turn, did not escape quite so easily. The Germans were 
evidently bent upon holding them to their ground for a 
time, and about 6 A.M. launched their infantry in dense 
waves to the attack. They were thrown back with 
heavy loss by the South Lancashire and the Lincolnshire 
Regiments, who formed the rear guards of these two 
brigades; the 109th Battery also found excellent tar- 
gets in the masses of the enemy visible behind the 

1 The following message from the II. Corps to the 5th Division gives a 
good idea of the situation about 7 A.M. : 

To 5th Division. From II. Corps. 

G. 313. 24th [August 1914]. 

First Corps are retiring from their line Peissant Haulchin Har- 
mignies to positions at Villers Sire Nicole and Quevy le Petit aaa Sixth 
Infantry Brigade moving to position about cross roads one mile west of 
Harveng aaa All these positions are to cover retirement of Third Division 
when that becomes necessary aaa Fifth Cavalry Brigade to Harveng 
with detachment and battery at Harmignies aaa Third Division right 
flank will probably fall back to Harveng early aaa When Third Division 
is forced to retire or ordered to retire it will take up position about Sars la 
Bruyere aaa Your retirement will have to be more or less simultaneous 
and you should at once send to reconnoitre a position if possible about 
Blaugies and Montignies sur Roc or where you can find it aaa Your roads 
of retirement will be those described to Colonel Romer [General Staff of 
5th Division] and in addition that through Blaugies and Erquennes to 
Hergies but not through second I of Pissotiau [that is west of the Blaugies 
Erquennes Hergies road] which belongs to Third Division aaa If 
you feel yourself sufficiently strong where you are you might send a brigade 
or less back to your next position to prepare it aaa We cannot tell when 
Third Division will have to retire to Sars la Bruyere but hope that it will 
at least not be for two or three hours. 


7.15 A.M. 

Copy handed to Col. Maurice [G.S. 3rd Division]. 

One by tel. 
One by officer. 

92 MONS 

front line. About 9 A.M. the 9th Infantry Brigade fell 
back, in perfect order, through the town of Frameries, 
where there was some sharp fighting before the troops got 
clear of the streets, and marched southward upon Sars la 
Bruyere. The 7th Infantry Brigade held on for a little 
longer, and the South Lancashire were enfiladed by machine 
guns from the slag-heaps about Frameries, and lost between 
two and three hundred men before this brigade also was 
withdrawn towards Genly. The Germans made no attempt 
to press them ; indeed, they handled the 3rd Division on 
this day with singular respect. It had, in fact, though it 
was not appreciated at the time, inflicted on them very 
heavy losses. 


The German accounts of the fighting at Frameries 
are so greatly to the credit of the British Expeditionary 
Force, that they are worth recording here. 

The attack on the Lincolnshire and South Lancashire 
was made by a whole German division the 6th of the 
///. Corps. There is a detailed account of the action by 
Hauptmann von Brandis of the 24th (Brandenburg) Regi- 
ment. 1 He says : 

" Our artillery is to prepare the assault. ... A con- 
" tinuous stream of gun and howitzer shell thunders out, 
" hurtling and howling over our heads, and bursting in dust 
" and smoke on the edge of the village [Frameries]. No 
" human beings could possibly live there. At 7 A.M. six 
"companies of the regiment advance to the attack. We 
" remain impatiently in reserve. ... If we thought that 
" the English had been shelled enough to be storm-ripe, we 
" were fairly mistaken. They met us with well-aimed fire." 

His company was then sent up to reinforce. As it 
reached the firing line, the men shout " Vorwarts " expect- 
ing to carry it with them, but no one rose. " There were 
" only dead and wounded to be seen. Tommy seems to have 
"waited for the moment of the assault. He had carefully 
" studied our training manuals, and suddenly, when we were 
" well in the open, he turned his machine guns on." It was 
only however rapid rifle fire. The assault failing, the village 
was shelled again, and the attack renewed with larger 
forces. Eventually the Germans entered Frameries and 
found no defenders there. 

1 In his book " Die Sturmer von Douaumont." 


" Up to all the tricks of the trade from their experience 24 Aug. 
" of small wars, the English veterans brilliantly understood 1914 
" how to slip off at the last moment." Of the casualties 
he says : " Our battalion alone lost three company com- 
"manders, and, besides, every second officer and every 
" third man." 

Captain Liebenow of the 64th Infantry Regiment, of 
the same brigade as von Brandis, states * that his battalion 
at Frameries lost " the adjutant, every fourth man and, 
" of three companies, every lieutenant." 

Captain Heubner, of the 20th Infantry Regiment, 2 
states : " many of our companies had heavy losses in the 
"attack on Frameries. ... As on the previous day, the 
" English again vanished without leaving a trace (spurlos)" 


It was in the section immediately to the west of Frameries Maps o 
that trouble was first experienced. The right of the 5th * 7> 
Division at Paturages, in the midst of the sea of mining 
villages, was held by three battalions of the 5th Infantry 
Brigade, and one, the Bedfords, of the 15th. The German 
guns opened their bombardment before dawn, and con- 
tinued it steadily for some four hours, though to little 
purpose. The enemy infantry meanwhile fell upon a 
company of the Bedfords near Paturages, and a very lively 
fight followed without definite result. Meanwhile, further 
to the west, the Dorsets (15th Infantry Brigade, but 
detached with the 13th) were well entrenched along the 
railway to the north-west of Wasmes, with two guns of the 
121st Battery dug in near their extreme left. Still further 
to the left, in the 13th Infantry Brigade, the 2/ Yorkshire 
Light Infantry was coming into position with the 37th 
Howitzer Battery level with it. The 2/Duke of Welling- 
ton's, which was shortly to relieve the I/Dorset, and the 
1 /Royal West Kent were in Wasmes ; the 2/Scottish 
Borderers was on the left at Champ des Sarts. The I/Norfolk 
and 1 /Cheshire of the 15th Infantry Brigade, together with 
the 119th Battery, were ordered to Dour (two miles south- 
west) as divisional reserve. The XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. 3 

1 In a letter to " The Times Literary Supplement," 4th September 

2 In his book " Unter Emmich vor Liittich, Unter Kluck vor Paris." 

3 Less the 119th Battery. 

94 MONS 

was about Champ des Sarts ; the VIII. Howitzer Brigade 
(less the 37th Battery) to the right and in advance of 
it ; and the XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. was to the left of 
it, to the north of Dour. 

In this section of the line the enemy began operations 
at dawn by bombarding the northern edge of St. Ghislain 
for two hours, after which he pushed his patrols forward 
and ascertained that the place had been evacuated by the 
British. 1 The infantry 2 then crossed the Canal by some 
of the foot-bridges still left standing ; and a battalion and 
a half, hastening through the deserted streets, deployed 
from the southern edge of Hornu, the next village, opposite 
Champ des Sarts. The two advanced guns of the 121st 
Battery, which had opened fire, were quickly compelled 
to retire by the enemy's machine guns ; but the Dor sets 
and the 37th Battery brought the German advance to an 
abrupt standstill with considerable loss. 

At 9 A.M. the three battalions of the 5th Infantry 
Brigade on the right of the 5th Division at Paturages, in 
accordance with their orders from the I. Corps, began to 
withdraw by Culot and Eugies southward upon Sars la 
Bruyere. Roused at 4 A.M. the Worcestershire and the 
H.L.I, had dug in on the front line, whilst the Oxfords 
entrenched a position in rear to cover retirement. Though 
under shell fire not one of them had fired a shot nor seen a 
German, but their retirement at once brought trouble upon 
the denuded right flank of the II. Corps, where stood the 
Bedfords. A detachment of the Dorsets filled the vacant 
place for the moment, and the resistance was for the time 
maintained ; the Germans were evidently less concerned 
to drive the British back than to hold them to their ground. 

None the less, they were not content to be checked at 
the exits of Hornu. Again and again they tried to de- 
bouch, but without success, the 37th Battery working great 
havoc among them. It seems that the Germans must have 
lost heavily, for the Brandenburg Grenadiers^ though ex- 
hausted and thinned by the engagement of the previous 
day, were hastily called up to reinforce the firing line. 3 

1 Writing of the advance through St. Ghislain on the 24th, Hauptmann 
Bloem (p. 153) writes : " Truly, our artillery shot famously this night and 
this morning " ; and he says that the town looked " as if it had been 
visited by a whirlwind." 

2 gth Division. 

8 Of the approach to Hornu, Hauptmann Bloem says (p. 156) that his 
battalion was fired on by gun and rifles whilst it was in column of march, 
and the regimental adjutant brought him the order : " The 52nd in front 
are heavily engaged and require reinforcement at any cost. Haste is 


Meanwhile, the German artillery had for some time been 24 Aug. 
shelling Wasmes furiously, causing some loss in the 13th 1914< 
Infantry Brigade both to the Duke's and to the West Kents ; 
but the former, as has been told, had been withdrawn to 
relieve the Dorsets, and shortly afterwards two companies 
of the West Kents were also shifted eastwards to fill a gap 
between the Duke's and the Yorkshire Light Infantry. The 
German guns then turned with fury upon the British 
batteries, and the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. at Champ des 
Sarts was compelled to withdraw under heavy fire. But 
here, once again, the enemy did not seriously press the 
attack of his infantry ; he had already lost too heavily. 

On the front of the 14th Infantry Brigade, on the left 
of the 13th, all was quiet. Still further to the west, the 
19th Infantry Brigade had received orders from G.H.Q. at 
midnight to fall back to Elouges, six miles south-east, and 
at 2 A.M. it began its march upon that village by Hensies 
and Quievrain. At the same hour, the French 84th 
Territorial Division evacuated Conde and commenced its 
retirement towards Cambrai. At dawn the Cavalry 
Division, which was in rear of the left, began to move ; 
General Allenby, finding that the Germans were in great 
strength on his left, decided to withdraw some distance, 
and sent a message to Sir Charles Fergusson to that 
effect ; but, on hearing from him that the 5th Division was 
to hold its ground, agreed to cover its left flank. A Map 8. 
squadron of the 9th Lancers, feeling its way forward to 
Thulin, the left of the II. Corps, found the enemy at the 
northern edge of the town and engaged him. Meanwhile, 
the 2nd Cavalry Brigade had taken up a position south of 
the main highway to Valenciennes and astride the road 
from Thulin to Elouges ; the 1st Cavalry Brigade was on 
the railway to its left ; the 3rd to the left rear of the 1st 
near a sugar factory about a thousand yards south-east of 
Quievrain, and the 4th at Sebourg, about five miles further 
south. There they remained until the 19th Infantry 
Brigade had been withdrawn, when it passed under 

imperative." Bloem cannot believe his observer when he reports " Herr 
Hauptmann, the enemy is retiring." " What what do you say the 
enemy is retiring. You mean he is advancing." . . . "In the thick 
masses everybody rushes forward, Grenadiers and Fusiliers, men of all 
companies mixed up ... we jump into the English trenches. . . . 
Suddenly something awful happens." They are immediately heavily 
shelled by their own artillery. 

No casualties for Bloem's regiment for this action can be found in the 
official lists for 1914. 

96 MONS 

General Allenby's command, and was halted at Baisieux, 
two miles south-west of Elouges, to the vicinity of which 
the 1st Cavalry Brigade also retired. Meanwhile, the 
advanced squadron of the 9th Lancers was disputing the 
advance of the Germans from Thulin, and inflicting some 
loss upon them, though all the time falling back upon its 
main body. About 6 A.M. German guns opened fire upon 
that main body from the neighbourhood of Thulin, and 
about 7 A.M. German infantry and artillery of the 7th 
Division of the IV. Corps were seen moving westward 
along the highway to Valenciennes. One party turning 
southward, came down the road towards Elouges in column 
of route, and, after suffering severely from the rifles of the 
18th Hussars and 9th Lancers upon either side of it, 
deployed and advanced upon a wide front. 

Thereupon, General Allenby, ordering the road Elouges 
Audregnies Angre Roisin (five miles south of Elouges) 
to be left open for the retreat of the 5th Division, began 
about 9 A.M. to withdraw his troops slowly southward. 
Though he had sent three officers, one of them in a motor 
car, to ascertain whether the 5th Division had begun its 
retirement, not one of these messengers had yet returned. 
Accordingly, he made his dispositions for retreat with due 
precautions for the safety of the left flank of the Army. 
The 19th Infantry Brigade was directed to fall back and 
take up a position at Rombies (three miles south-west of 
Baisieux and about seven south of Conde), and then the 
Cavalry Division began to withdraw, by successive 
brigades, in the same direction. In order to delay the 
enemy's advance to the utmost, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, 
which formed the rear guard, utilized the sunken roads, 
mineral railways and slag-heaps that broke up the ground 
between the Mons Valenciennes road on the north and the 
villages of Elouges and Audregnies on the south. It was 
supported by L Battery R.H.A., which was in position in 
the middle of the area behind the railway between Elouges 
and Quievrain. It was very heavily shelled as it retired, 
but fortunately little harm was done, and there was no 
real pressure from the enemy. By 11.30 A.M. the very 
last parties had come in, and the 2nd Cavalry Brigade was 
moving through Audregnies upon Angre, the 18th Hussars 
bringing up the rear. 

9 A.M. TO 2 P.M. 97 

9 A.M. to 1 P.M. 

So much for the first moves of the great retreat. The 24 Aug. 
succeeding hours of the 24th August likewise passed with- 1914 - 
out serious trouble on the right of the Army. General Maps 6 
Home's rear guard had, as related, 1 taken up a position on & 7 - 
a front of three miles facing north-east, with its right on 
the road from Mons to Maubeuge, about a mile north of 
Bonnet, with its left near Genly. About 10.30 A.M. the 
8th Infantry Brigade came in on its western flank. The 
7th Infantry Brigade, assembling at Genly from Ciply and 
Nouvelles, passed through the 8th on its way to Blaregnies, 
where it or, at any rate, some part of it halted and 
faced about. About 11 A.M. the 5th Infantry Brigade 2 
likewise joined the 8th on the western side, forming up in 
depth from Eugies to Sars la Bruyere. The 9th Infantry 
Brigade made its way, as indeed, from the direction of the 
roads, was inevitable, to the same point ; and there the 
3rd Division, together with General Home's rear guard, 
waited until far into the afternoon. There was no pressure 
whatever upon them. Indeed, at 11 A.M. General Home 
reported that the special responsibility of his rear guard 
was at an end, and that he proposed to return his troops to 
their divisions. But, soon after 1 P.M., a message came in 
to the I. Corps Headquarters from the II. Corps that the 
retreat of the 5th Division on the left was delayed, and 
that meanwhile the 3rd Division would stand fast. Sir 
Douglas Haig directed his rear guard to conform with the 
movements of the 3rd Division ; it therefore remained in 
its position, little troubled or threatened, but stationary. 
We will now turn westward again and see what had delayed 
the retirement of the 5th Division. 

9 A.M. to 2 P.M. 

We left the Dorsets and Bedfords at Paturages cover- Maps o 
ing the right of the 13th Infantry Brigade, which was & 7 - 
engaging the enemy issuing from the southern exits of 
Hornu. After the withdrawal of the 5th Infantry Brigade 

1 See p. 89. 

2 That is to say, the three battalions which had been at Paturages. 
The remaining battalion (2/Connaught Rangers) was with the 4th (Guards) 


98 MONS 

on their right, it was evident that these two battalions 
could not maintain themselves in such a position for long, 
and at 10.30 A.M. Brigadier-General Count Gleichen began 
the somewhat awkward operation of withdrawing them 
westward through Paturages. It was none too soon. The 
first line transport of the Dorsets, retiring by La Bouverie 
on its way to Blaugies, six miles north of Bavai, was 
caught in an ambush by the Germans, 1 but managed to 
extricate itself with little loss ; and at 11 A.M. the Bed- 
fords on the right (south of the railway line from Wasmes 
to Frameries), and the Dorsets on the left began their 
movement south-west across the rear of the 13th Infantry 
Brigade, towards Petit Wasmes and Warquignies. They 
had some sharp fighting, in which British marksmanship 
seems to have told its usual tale, before they could clear 
themselves from the streets ; part of the Bedfords, acting 
as escort to the divisional artillery, struck due south from 
Warquignies, and made their way to St. Waast les 
Bavay. 2 The remainder marched to Athis, west of 
Blaugies, and the bulk of the Dorsets to Blaugies itself, 
where both halted, the time being about 2 P.M. 

Meanwhile, about 11 A.M., Sir Charles Fergusson 
received a message from the II. Corps, giving him dis- 
cretion to fall back as soon as the troops on his right had 
retired ; finding that they had already gone and that the 
enemy was working round his right flank, he proceeded to 
follow their example. The 13th Infantry Brigade was 
holding its own with no great difficulty, though the enemy 
was shelling the 2/Duke of Wellington's on the right and 
inflicting considerable loss ; he was however doing little 
mischief to the 2/ Yorkshire Light Infantry, and still re- 
frained from any serious infantry attack. The 14th 
Infantry Brigade, on the left of the 13th, was left in com- 
parative quiet ; the 2/Manchester, part of which had been 
moved up to the left of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, 
alone being under heavy artillery fire. This brigade began 
the withdrawal by successive battalions, with little inter- 
ference from the enemy, and formed up at Blaugies to 
cover the retreat of the 13th Infantry Brigade. The latter 
was allowed to fall back without serious trouble. The 
VIII. Howitzer Brigade withdrew at once; the XXVIII. 
Brigade R.F.A. left a section of each battery behind to 

1 Part of the 20th Regiment of the 6th Division, it appears, had pressed 
on (see " Mons "), between Frameries and Paturages. 

2 On some maps St. Waast la Vallee, two miles west of Bavai. 


support the infantry rear guards ; and the operations 24 Aug. 
seem to have proceeded with little or no interference from 1914 - 
the German infantry. One German battery did, indeed, 
come into action in the open at three thousand yards' 
range, but was quickly silenced. Only in one quarter does 
the German infantry appear to have advanced in earnest. 
By some mishap, the order to retreat did not reach the 
2/Duke's, which accordingly remained in position, with 
a battery of the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. close to it. 
About 11.30 A.M., exactly the time when the order should 
have affected the Duke's, the Germans suddenly con- 
centrated a tremendous fire upon this battery from guns 
which they had brought up to close range. A sharp fight 
followed during the next hour and a half, and it was 
only the rifles of the infantry that saved the British 
battery. About 1 P.M. the Germans debouched in thick 
skirmishing formation followed by dense masses from the 
Boussu Quievrain road on the left front of the British 
battalion, but were greeted by such a rain of bullets from 
rifles and machine guns at 800 yards, and such a salute 
from the battery that they stopped dead. Under cover of 
this final stroke, the guns limbered up and the battalion 
withdrew south-west into Dour. The Duke's had suffered 
heavily, their casualties reaching nearly four hundred 
of all ranks, but they had driven back six battalions. 1 
By 2 P.M. the 13th and 14th Infantry Brigades were 
assembled at Warquignies and Blaugies, respectively, 
ready to continue their retreat to their places in the new 
position : St. Waast (2 miles west of Bavai) and Eth 
(4 miles west and a little north of St. Waast). 


But the 5th Division was not destined to march so far Map 8. 
to the south-west as Eth. Hardly had the 13th and 14th 
Infantry Brigades begun their retreat, when Sir Charles 
Fergusson became aware that the withdrawal of the 
cavalry and 19th Infantry Brigade had been premature, 
and that his left flank was seriously threatened by German 
forces of considerable strength advancing due south 
between Tliulin and Conde. 2 At 11.45 A.M. he sent an 
urgent message to the Cavalry Division to come to his 

1 66th and 26th Regiments of the 7th Division (see " Mons," Sketch 5). 
It should be recalled that a German infantry regiment contained three 

2 The whole IV. Corps. 

100 MONS 

assistance, and at the same time placed the 1/Norfolks 
and I/Cheshire, together with the 119th Battery, all of 
which were still in reserve near Divisional Headquarters 
at Dour, under the command of Colonel Ballard of the 
Norfolk Regiment. The first orders given to this officer 
were to advance north and counter-attack. Accordingly, 
he moved his troops northward for half a mile till a staff 
officer came up and directed them to be moved westward 
into position along the Elouges Audregnies Angre road, 
down which, as we have seen, the rear guard of the Cavalry 
Division had already retired. Thither, accordingly, they 
marched. Meanwhile, General Allenby had received 
General Fergusson's message about noon, and responded 
instantly by sending back the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades 
to the vicinity of Audregnies, which brought them within 
a couple of miles of Colonel Ballard. The 18th Hussars, 
who had just quitted their position of the forenoon, 
returned ; L Battery came up next at a rapid trot, and 
halted just to the west of Elouges ; whilst the 9th 
Lancers formed up by the road immediately to north 
of that village, with the 4th Dragoon Guards in rear. 
Simultaneously, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, which was 
nearing Rombies, faced about and, hastening back, 
occupied a position on the ridge immediately west of 

The scene of the action which was about to take place 
is an irregular parallelogram, bounded on the north by 
the great highway from Mons to Valenciennes, on the east 
by the Elouges rivulet, on the south by the road from 
Elouges to Audregnies, and on the west by the valley of 
the Honnelle : a space, roughly speaking, about three 
thousand yards from north to south, by five thousand from 
east to west. From south to north the ground forms a 
perfect natural glacis, at this time covered with corn- 
stooks. Across the parallelogram runs the railway from 
Elouges to QuieVrain, for the most part sunk in cutting 
and bordered upon each side by a quickset hedge. About 
a thousand yards to the south, a mineral railway runs 
parallel with it for about half its length, and then comes 
to an abrupt end in a group of cottages. More or less 
parallel to the Honnelle, the old Roman Road, famous under 
the name of the Chaussee Brunehaut, runs straight as an 
arrow north-west from Audregnies, cutting the great 
highway about a thousand yards east of Quievrain. Upon 
this road, about a mile and a quarter north of Audregnies, 

fiLOUGES 101 

stood a sugar-factory, and, immediately to the east of it, 24 Aug. 
a cluster of high slag-heaps. 1914. 

It was now about 12.30 P.M. Colonel Ballard's force 
was just taking up its ground, facing nearly west, the 
Norfolks on the right, with their right resting on the rail- 
way from Elouges to Quievrain, and the Cheshire on the 
left, carrying the line to the northern outskirts of 
Audregnies, and securing touch with the cavalry. All 
had, so far, been comparatively quiet, when a sudden 
burst of fire, both of guns and rifles, from the north-west, 
gave warning that the Germans were opening their attack. 
It developed in two distinct columns, one from Quievrain, 
the other from the Bois de Deduit and Baisieux south-east 
upon Audregnies. General de Lisle (2nd Cavalry Brigade), 
galloping to the 9th Lancers, instructed the commanding 
officer to deliver, if necessary, a mounted attack northwards 
in order to take the German advance in flank ; whilst 
L Battery, finding no suitable forward position near, 
wheeled about and galloped south, coming into action 
behind the railway just to the east of Audregnies. 

Colonel Campbell ordered the 9th Lancers to advance, 
which they did in column of squadrons at the gallop, with 
two troops of the 4th Dragoon Guards echeloned to their 
left rear. Crossing the sunken road from Baisieux to 
Elouges at a point where it ran level with the ground, they 
galloped on, speared a couple of German scouts near the 
road, and caught sight of a few more taking cover among 
the corn-stooks ; then, their advance checked by the fire 
of nine batteries, they hesitated. Some dismounted by the 
sugar-factory, others swept round to the right and back 
towards Audregnies, and a great number, retiring along 
the mineral railway towards Elouges, rallied there upon 
the 18th Hussars. Simultaneously, a squadron of the 4th 
Dragoon Guards galloped down a narrow lane towards 
Baisieux, in order to seize a house at the end of it, and thus 
to cover a further advance upon Quievrain. As it went it 
was shattered by heavy fire of rifles and shrapnel and, 
though the cottage was eventually reached and held, the 
effort led to no result. 

The advance of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade seems to have 
produced some moral effect in delaying the progress of 
the German attack, and so gained time for Colonel Ballard's 
flank guard to settle down, not, indeed, in entrenchments 
for there was not a moment to spare for digging but in 
fair natural cover. Probably it made matters easier also 

102 MONS 

for the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, which was now in position 
further south about Angre, with its machine guns firing 
down the valley on Baisieux, supported by the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade and covered by the guns of D and E Batteries in 
rear. About 12.45 P.M. the action became serious, with 
obvious signs of an enveloping movement. The Germans 
had at least seven batteries in action about a mile north 
of the Valenciennes road towards the hamlet of La Croix, 
and, under the protection of their shells, the main body of 
their infantry apparently a division of the IV. Corps 1 
closed up on to the advanced guards and strove to carry 
the advance further. Solid masses emerged from Quievrain 
and from a small wood at its north-eastern corner; and 
dense columns came streaming down the three broad rides 
that led from the Bois de Deduit, midway between Quie- 
vrain and Baisieux, into the open. L Battery now had the 
chance for which every gunner prays ; no sooner did the 
Germans show themselves than it opened upon them with 
shrapnel, bursting its shells low, with an accuracy which 
literally mowed down the advancing masses. In vain they 
ran back to cover, rallied and endeavoured to press forward. 
In vain four German batteries, three firing shrapnel and 
one high explosive, strove to silence the exasperating guns 
which were arresting the progress of the infantry. Their 
shrapnel burst high and scattered harmless bullets, while 
their high-explosive, with the exception of one shell which 
caused ten casualties, fell wide and did no damage. L 
Battery was not to be silenced, and forbade, under heavy 
penalty, any hostile advance from Quievrain. 

Colonel Ballard's infantry, likewise, seemed secure with 
a perfect natural glacis before it ; and the 119th Battery, 
which was in position south of Elouges, not less so. The 
fire of the German artillery was heavy, but its shell, for 
the most part, went over. The 119th Battery answered 
the German guns with considerable effect ; and the 
Norfolks found excellent targets in the German infantry, 
who strove to swarm out of Quievrain, while the Cheshire 
brought both rifles and machine guns to bear with great 
execution upon the masses that were endeavouring to 
debouch from the Bois de Deduit. The 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade, which was spared all artillery fire, likewise held 
its own successfully south of the infantry, before Baisieux, 
and, with the help of D and E Batteries, effectually barred 

1 All four regiments, twelve battalions, of the 8th Division were 
engaged ("Mons"). 


the way against the Germans at that point. The baffled 24 Aug. 
enemy then tried a movement still further to the south 1914 
by Marchipont, but was stopped by the 5th Dragoon 
Guards, who had come up, from the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 
on the left of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Everywhere the 
Germans were checked. The first effort of von Kluck's 
enveloping movement was, in fact, completely and victori- 
ously foiled. 

There were, however, disquieting signs of a still wider 
turning movement further to the west about Quarouble 
(three miles south-west of Quievrain), where a mass of 
German infantry, thought to be the flank guard of an 
army corps 1 could be seen moving steadily to the south. 
Accordingly, shortly after (about 2.30 P.M.) Colonel Ballard 
gave the order to retire. 


About the same hour the troops to the eastward Maps 3 
were also set in motion to resume the retreat. The 3rd & 
Division marched from Genly Sars la Bruyere for Bavai 
en route for the villages to the south-west of that town ; 
General Home's rear guard, on its right, moved last of all, 
not until about 4.30 P.M. The main body of the 5th Divi- 
sion struck south from Blaugies through Athis upon Bavai 
and St. Waast, its place in the selected position ; and 
the Cavalry Division also prepared to withdraw, the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade moving up to Onnezies to cover the first 
rearward bound of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to Angre. Map 8. 
Meanwhile, the effect of the advance of the Germans 2 to 
the east of Colonel Ballard's flank guard was beginning 
to be felt, and the 119th Battery, between the fire of the 
three German batteries, and of a machine gun at much 
closer range, was suffering considerably. One section, the 
first that had come into action, fired at the hostile infantry 
until it was within eight hundred yards, and then, with- 
drew. The four remaining guns were brought off by the 
battery commander, Major Alexander, one at a time, with 
the help of a party of the 9th Lancers. 3 The Norfolks 

1 Actually the three battalions of the 36th Regiment of the IV. Corps. 

2 The 7th Division of the IV. Corps. 

3 Major Alexander received the V.C. for " handling his battery against 
" overwhelming odds with such conspicuous success that all his guns were 
" saved, notwithstanding that they had to be withdrawn by hand by him- 
" self and three other men." Captain Francis Grenfell, 9th Lancers, also 
received the V.C. on this day for gallantry in action and for assisting to 
save the guns of the 119th Battery. 

104 MONS 

then fell back in two parties under a continuous hail of 
shrapnel bullets, leaving a hundred of their wounded 
behind them at Elouges. Most unfortunately, both the 
second in command and the adjutant were wounded at 
this critical moment, and thus one platoon in an advanced 
position received no orders to retire. 

Colonel Ballard sent to the Cheshire three separate 
messages to fall back, not one of which reached them. 
The major of L Battery also received no orders, but seeing 
no sign of the Norfolks and having fired away nearly the 
whole of his ammunition, was meditating withdrawal when 
the brigade-major of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade arrived and 
directed him to bring his battery out of action. The guns 
were thereupon run down close under the screen of the 
railway hedge ; the limbers were brought up one "by one 
at a gallop from Audregnies ; and the battery limbered up 
and got away without further mishap. The party of the 
4th Dragoon Guards in the house by the lane then retired 
also ; and they, together with L Battery and the main 
body of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, moved off south-west- 
ward upon Ruesnes. The Cavalry Division had mean- 
while fallen back towards St. Waast and Wargnies, the 
4th Cavalry Brigade being further to the west between 
Saultain and Jenlain. 

The Cheshire, together with a small party of the 
Norfolks, were thus left alone. The commanding officer 
of the former was unaware of the general retreat of the 
Army, so that he was at a loss to know what was expected 
of him. The Germans were now pressing forward rapidly 
upon both flanks, and about 4 P.M., while making disposi- 
tions to meet the movement, he was disabled by three 
wounds. Shortly before this, part of the reserve company 
of the Cheshire at Audregnies had been ordered by a 
staff officer to fall back, and, after vainly striving to rejoin 
the fighting line (which was rightly forbidden) made its 
way to Athis. Meanwhile, as the Germans came closer, 
the main body of the Cheshire fell back to the Audregnies 
road, where they were fired on by two machine guns 
placed in a dip in the ground, a couple of hundred yards 
away. These were promptly silenced by the machine 
guns of the Cheshire, a little party of whom charged 
forward with the bayonet to dislodge the enemy from this 
point of vantage. The Germans turned at the sight of 
them, and during this short respite the opportunity 
was taken to draw off a small part of the battalion across 


country to Audregnies wood, which they reached under 24 Aug. 
heavy fire, thence making their way to Athis. Then 1914 - 
the Germans, seeing how few were their assailants, returned 
to the attack, and there was nothing left for the remainder 
of the Cheshire, a mere handful though they were, but 
to fight to the last. They had still ammunition and could 
keep up rapid fire, and though by this time separated into 
at least three groups, they continued to defend them- 
selves desperately until nearly 7 P.M. Then at last, sur- 
rounded and overwhelmed on all sides, they laid down 
their arms. Of the main body on the Audregnies road, 
only forty remained unwounded. Their captors were the 
72nd Infantry Regiment, belonging to the German IV. 

The troubles of the small party that had escaped were 
not ended on the battlefield. The enemy broke in 
from Dour during their retreat, and cut off a few of 
them ; and at Athis only one hundred of them could be 
assembled. The indefatigable gunners of the 5th Divi- 
sional Artillery came into action along the line Blaugies 
Athis Montignies, and again further to the south at 
Houdain, enabling the survivors of the flank guard to 
reach their bivouac at St. Waast at 9 P.M., utterly worn 
by hunger, fatigue and hard fighting, but still un- 
vanquished. They had held off the pursuit of a whole 
German corps from the main body of the 5th Division, but 
at heavy cost. The 119th Battery had lost thirty officers 
and men ; the Norfolks over two hundred and fifty officers 
and men ; whilst of the Cheshire, who in the morning 
had mustered nearly a thousand, only two officers and 
two hundred men answered their names at St. Waast. 

The total losses on the 24th August were greater than 
on the 23rd, and amounted to roughly 250 in the Cavalry 
Division, 100 in the I. Corps, 550 in the 3rd Division, 
1650 in the 5th Division and 40 in the 19th Infantry 


Thus ended the first day of the retreat. All circum- 
stances considered, although the casualties were consider- 
able, the operations had been remarkably successful. 
The 5th Division had, indeed, been called upon not only 
to defend six miles of front, but also, with the help of the 

106 MONS 

cavalry and of the 19th Infantry Brigade, to parry von 
Kluck's enveloping attack ; but it had triumphantly 
accomplished its task. The flanking battalions to the 
east and west had, it is true, suffered much, but only one 
had been actually overwhelmed, not a single gun had been 
lost, and the enemy had been very severely punished. 
Our troops were still confident that, when on anything 
like equal terms, they were more than a match for 
their opponents ; the one trouble that really oppressed 
them was want of sleep. Long after nightfall the 
battalions of the 3rd Division were passing the cross roads 
in Bavai, the men stumbling along more like ghosts than 
living soldiers, unconscious of everything about them, but 
still moving under the magic impulse of discipline and 
regimental pride. Marching, they were hardly awake ; 
halted, whether sitting or standing, they were instantly 
asleep. And these men on the eastern flank of the corps 
had done little fighting and endured little pressure during 
the day. Even worse was it on the western flank, where 
cavalry and infantry had had hard fighting from dawn 
till dusk, and many a man had been for over twenty-four 
hours without sleep or food. And this, it must be borne 
in mind, was only the beginning of the retreat. 
Map 3. The general disposition of the Army on the night of the 
24th/25th, on a line east to west through Bavai, was as 
follows : 

5th Cavalry Brigade . . . Feignies. 

I. Corps : 

1st Division .... Feignies, La Longueville. 
2nd Division .... Bavai. 

II. Corps : 

5th Division .... Bavai, St. Waast. 

3rd Division . . . .St. Waast, Amfroipret, 


Cavalry Division } . .St. Waast, Wargnies, 1 

19th Infantry Brigade/ . . Jenlain, Saultain. 

It will be observed that in the course of the day's march, 
the 3rd and 5th Divisions had changed places, the latter 
being now on the right and the former on the left of the 
II. Corps. This manoeuvre was intentional and carried 
out in accordance with orders issued for the purpose. The 

1 The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was much broken up. Headquarters, with 
L Battery, squadron of 4th Dragoon Guards, l squadrons of 9th Lancers, 
and one squadron of 18th Hussars, were at Ruesnes. 


whole Army was inclining westward, in order to clear 24 Aug. 
Maubeuge, and since the 3rd Division was able to begin 1914 - 
its retirement considerably before the 5th, it could without 
difficulty proceed to the westward of Bavai, and thus 
shorten the retreat of the 5th Division by permitting it to 
fall back due south instead of south-west, and so to drop 
into its place on the right of the II. Corps. This movement, 
not only eased the immediate task of the 5th Division, but 
relieved it from its difficult position upon the threatened 
western flank ; it was carried out without any collision, in 
fact without the divisions seeing each other. 


The German accounts of the 24th August are somewhat Maps 3 
meagre ; all that von Kluck has to say about the day is : & 6 * 
" After heavy fighting, the leading troops reached a line 
" (west to east) Onain Elouges Dour Genly Harveng. 
" The British force, estimated at from two to three divisions, 
" was driven back towards a line Curgies Bavai." 

He does not explain why his attempt at envelopment 
failed, why such a very short advance only three and a 
half miles from the Canal was made, or why his corps 
halted in the middle of the afternoon. His staff officer, 
von Kuhl, 1 states frankly " the enemy put up a lively resist- 
ance with rear guards so that we only advanced slowly." 
Von Kluck adds : " After the severe opposition offered by the 
" British Army in the two-days battle Mons St. Ghislain, 
" a further and even stronger defence was to be expected on 
" the line Valenciennes Bavai Maubeuge " and he then 
quotes four pages from Sir John French's Despatch. 

The German General Staff monograph, " Mons " gives 
a few details some of which have been noticed in foot- 
notes and explains the absence of the IX. Corps from 
the fighting. The orders for its advance were not issued 
until about 8 A.M., and immediately afterwards " an 
" aviator brought news from which it appeared that the 
" enemy had left only weak infantry and artillery on the line 
" Ciply Nouvelles Givry, that numerous small columns 
" were in retreat to the south and south-west, and that the 
" enemy's artillery was in lively action with our own. At 
" 9 A.M. the enemy's fire ceased, and the advancing infantry 
" encountered no more resistance, as the enemy had appar- 
" ently marched off in great haste." 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 72. 

108 MONS 

Nothing therefore could have been more successful than 
the withdrawal of the I. Corps and 3rd Division. The 
heavy losses inflicted on the Germans on the 23rd had not 
been without important results. 

The sketch maps in the monograph show that in the 
German ///. Corps the 6th Division attacked Frameries 
and Paturages, and the 5th Division Hornu and Boussu. 
Towards 5 P.M. this corps halted for the night. 

In the IV. Corps, the 7th Division moved through 
Thulin towards Elouges and the 8th, swinging west- 
wards, came through Quievrain and Quievrechain towards 
Audregnies and Angre, and thus, as related, struck the 5th 
Division flank guard. They halted in the afternoon : the 
7th Division near Elouges and the 8th at Baisieux and 
northwards. No details of the fighting are given in the 
German account, but it is mentioned that the " British 
resistance was quickly broken." This statement is not 
borne out by time and space : it is sufficient commentary 
on it to remark that through a long summer's day, these 
two divisions made an average advance of only three miles. 
Map 5. On the 24th the German //. Corps only reached Conde ; 
the //. Cavalry Corps during the same day was moving 
southwards through Tournai, so that fortunately neither 
of these formations came in contact with the Allied forces. 

Von Kluck's orders for the 25th, issued at 8 P.M., were : 
" Enemy's main position is believed to be Bavai Valen- 
" ciennes. The First Army will attack it with envelopment 
" of the left flank, //. Cavalry Corps against the enemy's 
" rear." * 



(Authorities : Palat, Hanotaux, Dauzet, Bujac, etc.) 

Maps 2 G.Q.G. instructions to General d'Amade, who took up his head- 
& 3 - quarters at Arras on 18th August 1914, were : " To establish a 
" barrier between Dunkerque and Maubeuge, in order to protect the 
" railway communications from possible raids by enemy cavalry." 
He was also to extend the inundations of the Scarpe, the Escaut 
and the Rhonelle by opening the canal sluices, and to occupy the 
old forts of Maulde, Flines, Curgies, Conde and Le Quesnoy. 

In accordance with these instructions General d'Amade, on the 
20th August, disposed his three Territorial divisions (" de campagne " 

i Kuhl's " Marne," p. 72. 


i.e. excluding the Territorial divisions " de place," such as the 18-24 Aug. 
34th Territorial Division at Lille) as follows : 1914. 

81st from the sea to the Lys ; Map 5, 

82nd from the Lys to the Scarpe ; 
84th from the Scarpe to the Sam ore. 

The main line of defence for the 84th was : northern edge of Bois Map 3. 
1'Eveque (north-east of Le Cateau) Solesmes Villers en Cauchies 
Estrun Sensee Canal; its advanced line being Maubeuge 
Mecquignies Wargnies Valenciennes junction of Escaut and 

On the 22nd, on the advance of the British Army west of Mau- 
beuge, the 84th Division closed in on its left about Valenciennes, 
clearing the British front, and advanced to Conde. It then formed 
along the Schelde from Conde north-westwards to Maulde. 

On the night of the 22nd/23rd the 88th Territorial Division left 
Choisy le Roi, near Paris, in twenty-two trains, and detrained on 
the morning of the 23rd at Seclin and Templeuve, near Lille. 
It was then ordered to march at once towards Cysoing (8 miles Map 2. 
south-east of Lille) and then to retake Tournai, which some German 
cavalry had entered on the 22nd. 1 The main body of the division 
reached Cysoing early on the 24th, and at 9 A.M. was suddenly 
subjected to a heavy artillery fire from about Tournai. As the 
division had no artillery with it, it eventually retired towards 
Templeuve and Arras, after delaying the enemy some hours. 

After the German attack at Mons on the 23rd, General d'Amade Map 3. 
reconstructed his line. At 2 A.M. (24th) the 84th Division 
retired from Conde through Valenciennes towards Cambrai and 
Marquion. During the morning of the 24th, the rear guard of the 
division in position near Fresnes (two miles south of Conde) was 
attacked and badly shaken. On the 25th, as will be seen, the 
division, still on the left of the British, was attacked when near 
Haspres and became disorganized. 

Lille was evacuated on the 24th by order of the Ministry of Map 2. 
War, 2 and the 82nd Division took up the line La Bassee Corbehem. 
The 81st Division conformed to this and was allocated the area 
between Aire and the sea. Thus, a barrier between the British 
left and the sea was still maintained. 

1 This cavalry patrol left again within a few hours. 
2 For an account of this incident see General Percin's " Lille." 



(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 2, 3, 9, 10 & 13) 

Sketch 3. AFTER a visit to the I. Corps and to General Sordet at 
Maps. Avesnes, Sir John French, on his return to G.H.Q. at 
Bavai in the afternoon of the 24th August, received 
information of the retreat of the French Third and Fourth 
Armies and the continuation of the retirement of the 
Fifth. The XVIII. Corps of the Fifth Army, immediately 
to the right of the British, had been attacked early, and 
had fallen back in good order to a line from Solre le Chateau 
(about ten miles south-east of Maubeuge) south-eastward 
to Clairfayte. Valabregue's Group of two Reserve divi- 
sions had also fallen back south of Maubeuge. 1 

As to the western flank, the Field-Marshal had been 
informed that two French Reserve divisions, the 61st 
and 62nd (General Ebener's Group), had been sent from 
Paris to Arras to reinforce General d'Amade, who would 
thus have six divisions some 80,000 men, without counting 
the garrison of Lille, 25,000 to hold a line, some 70 miles 
long, through Douai, Bethune and Aire to the sea. What 
enemy forces were before d'Amade was still unknown ; 
but German troops presumably part of the IV. Corps 
had been actually seen marching south between Valen- 
Map 2. ciennes and Bavai ; and the Flying Corps in the evening 
reported that a large column of two divisions, in all prob- 
ability the German II. Corps, moving west from Ath 
and Grammont, had wheeled southward at 10 A.M. at 
Lahamaide (5 miles north-west of Ath) and Ladeuze 

1 For the movements of this group, the nearest French troops on the 
right of the B.E.F., see Note at end of the chapter, p. 122. 



(4 miles south of Ath) ; also that at 4.40 P.M. one of 25 Aug. 
these divisions had halted at Ligne (3 miles west of Ath) 1914 - 
to allow the other to pass it; and cavalry was known 
to be as far west as Tournai. The British Staff was 
informed that Cambrai had been entrenched, and would 
be held by the French, while to the west of Cambrai the 
strong line of the Sensee would be occupied. From the 
small numbers available and the nature of the troops, it 
could not be hoped that they would keep off for very 
long any serious German pressure upon the British western 

The British Commander - in - Chief judged from the 
method and direction of the German attacks on the 24th 
that von Kluck was endeavouring not only to turn the 
left flank of the British force, but to press it back on to 
the old fortress of Maubeuge, 1 which lay to its right rear, 
offering asylum just as Metz had presented its shelter to 
the French in 1870 during the battle of Gravelotte. He 
was not, however, inclined to be thus tempted, and, as the 
left of the French XVIII. Corps was already ten miles 
in rear of the British right, decided to continue the retreat 
on the 25th some fifteen miles further, to a position in the 
neighbourhood of Le Cateau. 

The routes for this retirement of the British Force Map 3. 
presented some difficulty. Bavai is the crossing place of 
two ancient highways, the Chausee Brunehaut, running 
from south-east to north-west, and another, known as 
the Roman Road, running from south-west to north-east ; 
in the southern angle enclosed between them lies the Forest 
of Mormal. This was then a compact and well-cared- 
for block of woodland, mostly oak and beech, with an 
extreme length of nine miles and an average breadth of 
from three to four. On its western side the Roman Road 
forms its boundary for some seven miles ; from east to 
west several fair roads, one main road and a railway cross 
it ; and, in addition, the Bavai Pont sur Sambre and 
the Englefontaine Landrecies roads run respectively 
just north and south of it ; but there is no road through 
it from north to south : the numerous forest tracks shown Map 10. 
on the map were narrow and unmetalled, or at best 
had only a thin layer of unrolled stones. With the 
uncorrected maps then at the disposal of the British Force, 

1 This was actually the case. Von Kluck's orders for the 24th ran 
" The attack is to be so carried out that the enemy will be thrown back on 
" Maubeuge and his retreat to the west cut off " (Kluck, p. 45). 


a commander might well hesitate before involving his 
columns, with an enemy on their heels, in so large and 
blind a mass of trees. 1 Just east of the Forest runs the 
Sambre, with many loops and windings, with a general 
course south-west to north-east, but without, as might 
have been expected, a main road following the line of its 
valley : the Maubeuge Leval Landrecies road, the 
nearest to the river, was from half to two miles east of it. 
Consequently, if the river were crossed (as circumstances 
dictated that it must be crossed by the I. Corps as close 
to Maubeuge as possible), it must be recrossed before that 
corps could be re-united with the II. 

The situation presented to the British Commander-in- 
Chief was, through the mere accident of topography, most 
embarrassing. To pass the whole of his Army to the 
west of the Forest would mean, practically, a flank march 
across the front of an enemy greatly superior in numbers 
and already threatening his western flank ; to pass entirely 
to the east of it was impossible owing to the proximity of 
the French. Sir Douglas Haig was communicated with 
on the subject of avoiding the Forest, and at 5.45 P.M. 
on the 24th he wrote to the Commander-in Chief that he 
would be able to march at 5 A.M. on the 25th along the 
roads near the Sambre, and therefore could leave the 
Roman Road to the II. Corps. He added that his march 
would bring the head of his corps as far as Landrecies. 

The Commander-in-Chief decided therefore to divide 
the British Force, and send the I. Corps east and the 
II. Corps west of the Forest, and at 8.25 P.M. issued orders 
for the retirement, with a notification that the exact 
Maps 3 positions to be occupied at Le Cateau would be pointed 
& 13. out on the ground. 2 The movement was to be com- 
menced so that all rear guards would be clear of the Bavai 
Eth road by 5.30 A.M. on the 25th. In the G.H.Q. 
operation orders the Roman Road, Bavai Montay (just 
north-west of Le Cateau) was made the boundary between 
the I. and II. Corps and assigned to the II. Corps ; so 
that the I. Corps was responsible for the Forest of Mormal. 

1 The leading German corps avoided crossing the Forest from north to 
south. The III. Corps sent advanced guards by two of the transverse 
roads from west to east to secure the eastern edge ; and the IV. Corps 
also sent a column from west to east by the road south of the Forest to 
Landrecies, as will be seen. The IX. Corps crossed it with infinite pre- 
cautions by the main road from Berlaimont from east to west, two days 
after the battle of Le Cateau. The next corps to the east, the X. Reserve 
(at Etreux on the 27th), with Richthofen's Cavalry Corps, moved well to the 
east of the Forest. 2 Appendix 13. 


The various orders for moving the Force south-west- 25 Aug. 
wards may be summarized as follows : 1914. 

I. Corps : to move in two columns, and billet in villages on the 

1st Division : to cross the Sambre at Hautmont and proceed 

thence southward by Limont Fontaine, Ecuelin and 

Monceau to Dompierre and villages beyond. 
2nd Division : to cross the Sambre at Pont sur Sambre and 

Berlaimont, and billet in the area from Leval south-west 

to Landrecies. 
5th Cavalry Brigade (attached I. Corps) : to cover the above 

movements, follow the march of the 2nd Division and 

billet in the area from Leval northward to Bachant. 

II. Corps : to fall back west of the Forest of Mormal to the line 

Le Cateau Caudry Haucourt, by three roads. Further 

details are given below. 
Cavalry Division (with 19th Infantry Brigade attached) : 

Two brigades, with II. Corps Cavalry attached, under a 
special commander, to cover the retreat of the II. Corps ; 
two brigades, with the 19th Infantry Brigade, under 
G.O.C. Cavalry Division, to guard the western flank. 

In the course of the 22nd/23rd the 4th Division, having 
been relieved of its duties on the east coast of Great 
Britain by Yeomanry Mounted Brigades, Territorial 
cyclists and other units, had crossed the Channel to the 
ports of Havre, Rouen and Boulogne, and by the 24th 
eleven battalions of infantry and one brigade of artillery, 
the bulk of the combatants, had arrived by train at Le 
Cateau and the neighbouring stations. They were ordered 
to move forward and occupy a position at Solesmes to 
assist the retirement of the II. Corps. Major - General 
Snow subsequently received orders to withdraw when the 
time came to the left of the II. Corps on the Le Cateau 


In the right centre the 5th Cavalry Brigade, in the Maps 3 
early hours of the 25th, took over the outposts of the & !3. 
2nd Division from La Longueville to Bavai, which had 
been attacked, though not in force. A troop was sent 
out eastwards to gain touch with the outposts of the 1st 
Division, and it ascertained that the French 53rd Reserve 



Division was retiring upon Hatitmont, the very place 
selected for the 1st Division to cross the Sambre. From 
Feignies to Hautmont the 1st Division was confined to a 
single, narrow, high-banked, dusty road, and when the 
river had been passed at the allotted bridge the French 
53rd Reserve Division shared with it the road from Haut- 
mont to Dompierre and Marbaix. 1 The weather was 
extremely hot, and the march, broken as it was by constant 
checks owing to the number of troops on the road, was 
greatly distressing to soldiers already much worn by fatigue 
and want of sleep. Otherwise the column was little dis- 
turbed, except by occasional bullets from German patrols, 
Map 9. and the division reached its billets, in a line of villages 
west of Avesnes : the 1st (Guards) Brigade at Dompierre, 
the 2nd at Marbaix, which was shared with the French 
53rd Reserve Division, and the 3rd at Le Grand Fayt. 

The 2nd Division, moving to Noyelles Maroilles 
Landrecies, south of the Forest of Mormal, on the west of 
the 1st, had a better road from La Longueville to its bridges 
at Berlaimont and Pont sur Sambre ; the rear guard, 
supplied by the 6th Infantry Brigade, was only followed 
by dismounted cavalry and was little pressed. But it too 
had trouble, for Maroilles was the supply re-filling point 
of the French 53rd and 69th Reserve Divisions ; and 
no one could tell the British Staff which roads the 
supply columns would use after re-filling. Moreover, the 
tail of General Sordet's Cavalry Corps was using the road 
from Maroilles to Landrecies on its way to Le Cateau, 
and this meant further congestion. However, the 4th 
(Guards) Brigade duly reached Landrecies about 4 P.M. ; 
and the 6th Infantry Brigade reached Maroilles about 
6 P.M. ; the 5th was detained till evening to guard the 

?assages of the Sambre from Pont sur Sambre to Sassegnies 
west of Leval) until it could be relieved by French troops, 
and did not reach Noyelles till midnight. 

Sir Douglas Haig soon after 2 P.M. had established his 
headquarters at Landrecies ; here a message despatched 

1 General Palat, in an article entitled " Le Mar6chal French et le 
General Lanrezac " in the " Anglo-French Review," November 1919, 
stated that the mistake was the I. Corps' and that it got on the roads 
assigned to the Reserve division ; but no allotment of roads as between 
the British and the French can be traced before a memorandum dated 10 A.M. 
on the 26th. Similar mishaps as regards allotment of roads between 
Armies occurred on the German side, according to General Baumgarten- 
Crusius in his " Marneschlacht," due to there being no intermediate 
commander between Supreme Headquarters and the Armies, as there was 
later on in the war. 


from G.H.Q. soon after 3 P.M. reached him informing him 25 Aug. 
that the II. Corps was occupying the Le Cateau posi- 
tion from Caudry to Inchy, including, temporarily, the 
I. Corps' part of Inchy, and asked him when he would 
be able to take up the line from Inchy south-eastward to 
St. Benin (If miles south of Le Cateau). His answer was 
urgently requested, since the orders for the 26th depended 
upon it. 

General Haig realized that the situation was serious, 
for, about noon, the Flying Corps had reported German 
columns to be closing on Bavai. Meantime, his chief 
General Staff officer, Brigadier-General J. E. Gough, had 
gone to G.H.Q. and returned with instructions, in accord- 
ance with which he ordered the march of the I. Corps 
to be resumed at 2 A.M. on the 26th : that of the 1st 
Division to St. Martin (5 miles south of Le Cateau), 
the 2nd to Bazuel (2 miles south-east of Le Cateau), 
the whole movement to be covered by the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade. Orders, issued at 7.30 P.M. by G.H.Q., were, 
however, received subsequently, and they directed that 
the retirement was to be continued a little further and 
that the I. Corps was to go on to Bussigny (7 miles 
south-west of Le Cateau). 1 The reason of the change was 
that in view of the reports received of the further retire- 
ment of the French on his right and of the strength of 
the enemy on his own immediate front, Sir John French 
had decided that he could not stand on the Le Cateau 
position, but must continue the retreat on St. Quentin 
and Noyon. 


The II. Corps had made every preparation for a very Maps 3 
early start on the 25th in its retirement south-west from & 13 - 
Bavai to the Le Cateau position ; but owing to the passage 
of General Sordet's Cavalry Corps from east to west 
across its line of retreat, the roads to the south were 
blocked, and there was much difficulty in getting the 
whole of the transport into motion by midnight, the 
hour fixed in orders. The process was not, in fact, ac- 
complished without the delay of a full hour, with the 
result that the fighting troops were also that much behind 
their time. The 5th Division was allotted the Roman 
Road, immediately west of the Forest of Mormal ; the 

1 Appendix 14. 


14th Infantry Brigade formed its rear guard. The 3rd 
Division was to march on the west of the 5th Division 
on two roads as follows : 

9th Infantry Brigade via Gommegnies (three miles north- 
east of Le Quesnoy) Salesches Vendegies au Bois ; 

8th Infantry Brigade via Wargnies le Petit Le Quesnoy 
Salesches Viesly ; followed by the 

7th Infantry Brigade as rear guard. 

The 19th Infantry Brigade and the Cavalry Division were 
to move still further west by Villers Pol, Ruesnes, Vertain, 
Romeries and Solesmes, thus passing a couple of miles 
west of Le Quesnoy ; their function was to cover the 
rear and protect the western flank of the II. Corps. 

It will be remembered that the 4th Division had been 
ordered to occupy a position in the vicinity of Solesmes to 
assist the retirement of the II. Corps, though not actually 
under its orders. The division accordingly marched 
northward from its detraining stations at 1 A.M. to carry 
out the role assigned to it. 

The main body of the 5th Division moved off at 3 A.M., 
but the rear guard was obliged to push some way north- 
ward towards Bellignies (3 miles north-west of Bavai), 
to cover the withdrawal of its guns from St. Waast through 
Bavai: a flank march, though short, across the enemy's 
front, which the nature of the country made inevitable. 
There was a brush with German troops about Breaugies 
(just south of Bellignies) and a second encounter near 
Bavai, where the guns of the XV. Brigade R.F.A. came 
into action with good effect. By 6.30 A.M. just one hour 
late the bulk of the rear guard had crossed the road 
Bavai Eth, when, dropping into the Roman Road, it 
was no further troubled ; the Germans followed it up 
at no great distance, but never pressed the pursuit. 

Further to the west, the main body of the 3rd Division 
moved off at 5 A.M., the rear guard taking up a line from 
the Roman Road westward through Bermeries to Wargnies 
le Petit, where its left was in touch with General Allenby's 
command. The ground on the west flank of the British, 
over which the Cavalry Division was working, is cut into 
a series of ridges by four streams, which flow in a north- 
westerly direction into the Upper Schelde between Bouchain 
and Cambrai. Across this ground from north-east to 
south-west runs the straight line of the Bavai Cambrai 
road, and from north to south the Valenciennes Solesmes 


Le Cateau road. The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades 25 Aug. 
were extended from Wargnies beyond Jenlain, with the 1914 - 
3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades to their left rear between 
Maresches and Preseau, all on the first ridge ; and the 
19th Infantry Brigade, again to the left rear, on the next 
ridge between Sepmeries and Querenaing. 

The operations which now ensued on the west flank 
may be summarized as a running fight during which the 
Germans closed in, following the II. Corps and Cavalry 
Division, so that at night their advanced troops were 
practically in contact with the British. 

The 7th Infantry Brigade, the rear guard of the 3rd 
Division, began its retirement upon Le Quesnoy without 
seeing any sign of the enemy ; and a reconnaissance pushed 
north-west to Famars, on the outskirts of Valenciennes, 
could also find nothing of him. On the other hand, bodies 
of French Territorial troops, belonging to General d' Amade's 
84th Territorial Division, originally at Conde, were met 
retreating southward from Valenciennes, which indicated 
the evacuation of that town, and the prospect of increasing 
pressure from the enemy on the west. Reports from the 
Flying Corps pointed to the same conclusion : the head 
of a very large column apparently a corps (the IV.) 
had been seen at Quievrechain (5 miles north-east of 
Valenciennes) at 7.30 A.M. Another column of cavalry 
and guns, three miles in length (evidently two regiments, 
part of the //. Corps), was moving south from Somain 
(12 miles west of Valenciennes), and its head had reached 
Bouchain (11 miles south-west of Valenciennes) at 6 A.M. 
Lastly, between 9 and 10 A.M. Divisional Cavalry reported 
that parties of the enemy, presumably cavalry, were on 
the road between Haspres and Saulzoir (9 miles south 
by west of Valenciennes), and that they had passed along 
the main road from Valenciennes to Cambrai and struck 
south from the neighbourhood of Denain. It appears 
that the British cavalry was barely in contact with the 
enemy at the outset ; but the menace to the western 
flank of the force and to the retreating French Terri- 
torials caused the 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades to be 
sent westwards to Querenaing and beyond it to Verchain, 
thus covering the second ridge already referred to. The 
1st Cavalry Brigade also moved north of them in the same 
direction, through Artres (4 miles south of Valenciennes) 
where it was heavily, though ineffectively, shelled. 

At the same time, the 19th Infantry Brigade was moved 


by General Allenby south-west over the third ridge to 
Haussy in the valley south of it. At Querenaing French 
gendarmes reported the information that large German 
forces were moving south-east from Bouchain, and this 
news was confirmed by the sound of heavy firing about 
Avesnes le Sec (south-west of the last-named village), and 
only four miles from the 19th Infantry Brigade. The 
16th Lancers were therefore sent, about noon, to Haspres 
and Saulzoir to help the French Territorials ; but from 
Saulzoir they were driven back by artillery fire and with- 
drew south-eastwards to rejoin the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. 
Meanwhile, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, left alone in the north, 
had fallen back southward, not very hard pressed, first to 
a line between Villers Pol and Le Quesnoy, and then, in 
succession, to Ruesnes, Capelle sur Ecaillon and Vertain, 
east of the 19th Infantry Brigade. 

The 4th Division had been in position since 5 A.M. 
immediately to the south of Solesmes : the llth Infantry 
Brigade on the right, on the spur to the south-east of the 
town ; the 10th Infantry Brigade on the left, near the 
farm of Fontaine au Tertre (two miles south-west of 
Solesmes) ; and the 12th Infantry Brigade, in reserve, in 
rear at Viesly. It was of the utmost importance that 
Solesmes should be strongly held, for upon it the principal 
highways from the north-east, north and north-west, all 
converged ; and, soon after noon, a huge mass of British 
transport was struggling to pass through it by roads 
which were already seriously congested by a crowd of 
refugees. These, with every kind of vehicle from six- 
horse farm wagons to perambulators, everywhere delayed 
the marching troops, and made it impossible for motor 
cars carrying Staff officers to pass the columns. 

The further operations of the cavalry had all the char- 
acteristics of a prolonged rear-guard action. 1 Eventually 

1 General Allenby's opponents on this day, von der Marwitz's Cavalry 
Corps, spent the night of the 24th/25th : 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions 
at Marchiennes (16 miles north of Cambrai and about the same distance 
from the British flank), and the 4th Cavalry Division at Orchies (4 miles 
north of Marchiennes). The corps orders for the 25th were for " an 
overtaking pursuit," and the divisions were given as their respective 
objectives the three towns lying to the south-west, one behind the other : 
Le Cateau, Solesmes and Haspres. This line of march brought them in 
on the flank of the British, but too late to be effective. It is claimed 
that charges were made against the French Territorials ; but, except 
for " a street fight " in Haspres, about 3 P.M., " after which the 9th Cavalry 
Division spent the night there," the 11. Cavalry Corps, according to 
the German records, employed only artillery fire against the British 
(" Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 51-55). 


the 1st, 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades under increasing 25 Aug. 
shell fire from the enemy, fell back along the third of 1014 - 
the ridges between the Selle and the Harpies. The 
French 84th Territorial Division was found retreating 
southward across this ridge, and liaison was arranged with 
it ; but the pressure upon the British cavalry seemed at 
one time so heavy that the 19th Infantry Brigade was 
brought up on to the ridge from Haussy and deployed, in 
order to relieve it. The Germans, however, were held 
back with no great difficulty ; and the 19th Infantry 
Brigade, between 2 and 3 P.M., resumed its way south- 
ward to Solesmes, while the bulk of the cavalry and horse 
artillery, having for the time-being shaken off the enemy, 
was collected and massed to the east of Vertain (3 
miles north-east of Solesmes). Here, between 3 and 4 
P.M., they were suddenly assailed by a storm of German 
shells from the north-east as well as from the north ; and 
the division, being cramped for space, moved across 
country by brigades and still smaller bodies, after detailing 
rear guards to cover the passage of the infantry through 
Vertain and Solesmes. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade drew off 
south-east, leaving behind the greater part of the 4th 
Hussars, with instructions to gain touch with the I. Corps ; 
part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, including its head- 
quarters, took the same route ; the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
fell back to the high ground immediately south-east of 
Solesmes, and the 4th, with other portions of the Cavalry 
Division, remained in the vicinity of that town. 

Meanwhile, the rear guard of the 3rd Division (7th 
Infantry Brigade) was gradually coming in from Le 
Quesnoy to Solesmes, and by 5.45 P.M. its head had 
reached the point where the roads from Romeries, Vertain 
and Vendegies meet immediately to the north of Solesmes. 
There the I/Wiltshire and 2/South Lancashire halted and 
deployed, whilst the 3/Worcestershire occupied a covering 
position to the south of Solesmes between the 10th and 
llth Infantry Brigades. The 2/Irish Rifles and a section 
of the 41st Battery, the rear party of the rear guard, 
having been warned of strong German forces moving 
on Le Quesnoy, were following the rest of the 7th 
Infantry Brigade slowly and with every precaution, and 
at this time were at Pont a Pierres, on the main road, a 
couple of miles to the north-east of Romeries. The 19th 
Infantry Brigade about the same time was passing west of 
Solesmes, through St. Python, and began to make its way 


up the Selle Valley by Briastre and Neuvilly towards Le 
Cateau. The 4th Cavalry Brigade, together with the 
detachments of other mounted troops near Solesmes that 
had joined it, fell back by St. Python south-west upon 
Viesly, soon after the Wiltshire and South Lancashire (7th 
Infantry Brigade) had been deployed. By 6 P.M., or soon 
after, these two battalions were the only troops north of 
Solesmes, whilst the 4th Division still held its original 
position on the high ground to the south of that town, 
with orders from G.H.Q. to cover the retirement of the 
Map 9. 3rd Division, Cavalry Division and 19th Infantry Brigade. 

The stifling heat of the day had about 5 P.M. given 
place to a thunderstorm ; the light began to fail very 
early and the rain streamed down in torrents. Through 
this downpour, between 6 and 7 P.M., the remainder of 
the 3rd Division, drenched to the skin, hungry and weary, 
marched into their billets on the Le Cateau position: the 
8th Infantry Brigade to Audencourt and the 9th to Inchy. 

The main body of the 5th Division came in earlier, 
between 3 and 5 P.M., on the right of the 3rd : the 13th 
Infantry Brigade between Le Cateau and Troisvilles, and 
the 15th to Troisvilles, west of it. The march along the 
Roman Road had been most trying, for the sun beat 
fiercely upon the interminable length of the straight, 
white, dusty road, and under the tall trees of the Forest 
of Mormal there was not a breath of air to relieve the 
stifling heat. The 13th Infantry Brigade was delayed for 
some time just outside Le Cateau to allow six regiments 
and a cyclist battalion of General Sordet's Cavalry Corps 
to pass over the railway bridge on their way westward. 
As soon as the rear guard, the 14th Infantry Brigade, 
which had been little troubled, came in between 5.30 and 
6.30 P.M., the Cornwall Light Infantry and half of the East 
Surreys 1 were sent to the east of Le Cateau to establish 
connection with the I. Corps, while the Suffolks and the 
Manchesters were diverted a little westward to the other 
side of the Selle valley astride the Roman Road just north 
of Montay. Here, with two batteries of the XXVIII. 
Brigade R.F.A., they entrenched in order to keep the 
Germans at a distance upon that side. 

As darkness began to close in, the 7th Infantry Brigade, 

1 The two remaining companies under Major Tew had been mis- 
directed on the evening of the 24th, and had spent the night at Eth, from 
which place they marched by Ruesnes, Vertain and Solesmes to Viesly, 
where they arrived between 5 and 6 P.M. 


the 4th Division, and half of the Cavalry Division were 25 Aug. 
still engaged, or in position to engage, with the enemy near 1914 - 
Solesmes ; the 19th Infantry Brigade and the remainder 
of the Cavalry Division were still far from their halting 
places for the night ; the 5th Division and part of the 
3rd Division had, however, reached their destinations on 
the Le Cateau position. From front and left flank, the 
Germans appeared to be closing in, but at a respectful 
distance without affording the British the satisfaction of 
seeing the results of their good shooting. It would indeed 
have alleviated the fatigue of the men, tired out as they 
were with deployments upon rear-guard positions which 
were never attacked, had they had more fighting ; but the 
Germans never really came within rifle shot and rarely 
gave even the guns a target. 


Until the 27th August inclusive, the German First and Map 3. 
Second Armies were both under the orders of von Billow, 
the commander of the Second Army, and they appear to 
have had no other directions from Supreme Headquarters 
than those issued on the 18th August : 

" The First and Second Armies, combined under the 
" command of Generaloberst von Biilow, will have their 
" advanced guards across the Brussels Namur railway by 
" the 20th August, when they will wheel southwards " 
that is they were to continue the great wheel pivoting on 
Thionville laid down in the initial directions. 1 

On the 23rd August, after the battles of Charier oi 2 and 
Mons, von Biilow, in his instructions for the 24th, directed 
the First Army to continue the attack on the British and 
" to send the IX. Corps round the west side of Maubeuge 
" as soon as possible, with the //. Corps in echelon behind 
" it, in order to envelop the left flank of the French Fifth 
" Army." This, he says, could not be carried out because 
the British offered " renewed " resistance on the 24th. 

The German Second Army, with von Richthofen's Cavalry 
Corps, continuing the pursuit of the French Fifth Army 
on that day, reached in the evening an east and west line 
between Dinant and Maubeuge, and detailed the VII. 
Corps, the right of its line, to watch the south-eastern side 
of the French fortress. Von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps 

1 Kluck, p. 9. 2 See p. 85. 


was sent towards Tournai and Denain " to attack the British 
left flank." 

On the 25th, the First Army was to continue the 
attack against the British, enveloping their left wing; 
" but the enemy, by a cleverly executed retirement, 
" evaded the First Army, in spite of the latter's brilliant 
" marching performances." * 

The Second Army continued the pursuit of the French, 
but in a south-westerly direction, so that at night the 
heads of its four corps were roughly on a south-east and 
north-west line passing through Solre le Chateau. Mau- 
beuge was invested by the VII. Corps on the south-east 
and by the IX. Corps (of the First Army) on the north- 

" Strong portions of the 14th Division were, if possible, 
" to advance round the south of Maubeuge against the rear 
" of the British, in the direction of Aulnoye " 


" the /. Cavalry Corps was also ordered to push forward in 
" a westerly direction via Aulnoye to hinder the retreat of 
" the British." 

But neither infantry nor cavalry got within a march of 
Aulnoye and, in any case, the British were six miles south 
of that place on the evening of the 25th August. 

Thus it was that on this day the British were not in 
contact with the German Second Army ; of their collision 
with the First Army the next chapter will tell. 

On the same day General von Gallwitz, who was in 
charge of the siege of Namur (with the Guard Reserve and 
XI. Corps, the inner flank corps of the Second and Third 
Armies), was able to report that, except for a few forts on 
the south-west front, the fortress was in his hands. So 
that there was every prospect of these corps becoming 
available in the near future. 



The following were the movements of General Valabregue's 
Group, 21st-25th August, as given in General Palat's " La Grande 

1 The movements of the First Army are described further on p. 130 
et seq. 


Guerre sur le Front Occidental," vol. iii. pp. 801-2, 818, 826. They 22-25 Aug. 
are of interest, as this group was the nearest' French formation of all 1914. 
arms on the right of the British Forces. 

On the 22nd August, General Valabregue still had his head- Map 3. 
quarters at Avesnes (10 miles south of Maubeuge). On the evening 
of the 21st, the 69th Reserve Division commenced a movement north- 
east on Beaumont and Cousolre (13 miles and 10 miles east of Mau- 
beuge, respectively). On the 22nd at 9 P.M. the group received 
orders not to go so far east, but to march northwards towards the 
Sambre, so as to have its left on the fortress of Maubeuge, and its 
right on the road Solre sur Sambre Beaumont, facing north-east. 
Its march was much impeded by the crowds of refugees on the roads. 

On the 23rd the orders to the group were slightly changed : it 
was to go further northwards and prevent the passage of the Sambre 
near Solre sur Sambre ; for this purpose it was to take up a 
position south of the river between Montignies and the Bois de 
Jeumont, 69th Reserve Division on the right, 53rd Reserve Division 
on the left, headquarters at Solre le Chateau (10 miles south-east 
of Maubeuge). These orders were in course of execution, when 
news came of the attack on the British at Mons. Towards 5 P.M. 
it also became known that the left flank of the French XVIII. Corps 
had been attacked near Thuin, and that it was necessary to support 
it. The 69th Reserve Division was then ordered north-eastwards 
towards Thirimont Bousignies (both two miles to the north of 
Beaumont) and the 53rd, on its left, towards Cousolre, the result of 
which was to widen the gap between the Group Valabregue and the 
British Expeditionary Force. 

On the 24th, after an engagement in which the 53rd Reserve 
Division took part, the Group Valabregue retired, moving past the 
east and south fronts of Maubeuge. On the 25th it continued its 
retreat by Dompierre to the north-west of Avesnes. It was thus 
abreast of and in touch with the British, in fact, as already related, 
it came into collision on the roads with the I. Corps, and the 53rd 
Reserve Division, as will appear later, supported that corps when 
attacked at Maroilles. 



(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 3, 9, & 10) 


Sketch 3 WITH the fall of dusk in the I. Corps area, stories brought 
Map 9 by refugees began to circulate in the villages, in which the 
British were settling down, of the approach of the Germans 
to Maroilles and Landrecies, near which places lay the two 
main passages over the Sambre at the southern end of 
the Forest of Mormal. Sir Douglas Haig had taken every 
precaution against a hostile attack from the Forest upon 
his western flank during his retreat : the bridge over the 
Sambre, which lies to the north-west of Maroilles and 
carries the road from Le Quesnoy south-eastward through 
the Forest by Locquignol to Maroilles, was guarded by a 
troop of the 15th Hussars. Another troop watched a lock 
bridge some two miles farther down the river. Infantry 
was to relieve the cavalry at night : at Maroilles the 
passages of the Sambre were to be held by the 6th Infantry 
Brigade ; and those near Landrecies by the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade. On the right of the I. Corps were General 
Valabregue's Reserve divisions. From all reports, the 
enemy was not within striking distance, 1 and so little were 
the rumours believed that an officer of the 15th Hussars 
was denied permission by the local civil authorities to 
destroy some wooden buildings, which obstructed his view 
near Maroilles Bridge, on the ground that no Germans 
were anywhere near him. Suddenly, about 5.30 P.M., 
there was a panic amongst the inhabitants of Landrecies, 
caused by cries that the Germans were upon them. The 

1 According to the statements of German officers, the enemy seems to 
have been equally unaware of our presence at Landrecies and Maroilles 
see footnote 1, p. 126). 



troops promptly got under arms, and two companies of 25 Aug. 
the 3/Coldstream took post at the road- junction near the 1914 - 
railway about half a mile to the north-west of the town, 
and mounted patrols were sent out, but without finding 
any enemy. At Maroilles half an hour later (about 6 P.M.) 
German patrols 1 engaged the two detachments of the 15th 
Hussars, but were easily held at bay for an hour, when the 
assailants of the road bridge brought up a field gun and, 
creeping forward under cover of the very buildings which 
the British officer had wished to destroy, compelled the 
troop to fall back. As it retired towards Maroilles, it was 
met by a company of the 1 /Royal Berkshire which was 
coming up in relief. The infantry took post by the Rue 
des Juifs about a mile to the south-east of the bridge. The 
Germans challenging in French succeeded in enticing a 
British officer forward and making a prisoner of him ; but 
they made no further advance and presently retired. 

In Maroilles itself there was for a time such a congestion 
of supply lorries and of refugees with their vehicles, that the 
three remaining companies of the Royal Berkshire could 
only march off after considerable delay to the support of the 
company at the Rue des Juifs. When these companies at 
last came up, they found that the enemy had retired, and 
accordingly pushed on to recover the lost bridge. The 
only access to this, however, was by a causeway over 
marshy ground, and the enemy having barricaded the 
bridge and put his field gun into position, the Royal Berk- 
shire failed to drive him from it. After suffering a total 
loss of over sixty men, it was decided to make no further 
attempt to recapture the bridge until daylight ; they were 
therefore obliged to content themselves with forbidding 
advance along the causeway. 

Meanwhile at Landrecies there had also been fighting. 
The patrols returned with the report that all was clear and 
the 4th (Guards) Brigade was confirmed in its belief that 
the first alarm at 5.30 P.M. had been a false one. The 
exodus of inhabitants, however, still continued, and subse- 
quent events proved that the rumour was true. It seems 
that the advanced guard of the German IV. Corps 2 an 

1 The force that came to Maroilles was the 48th Infantry Regiment of 
the 5th Division, III. Corps, the advanced guard of the 5th Division (see 
footnote 4, p. 131). 

2 Kuhl, " Marne," p. 73, definitely states that the troops which " en- 
countered resistance " at Landrecies belonged to the IV. Corps. The 
original report that it was part of the IX. Corps appears to have been due 
to an identification received by wireless from the Eiffel Tower, Paris. For 
the German movements on the 25th see pp. 130-32 below. 


infantry brigade (the 14th) with a battery had marched 
from Le Quesnoy past the south of the Forest towards 
Landrecies for the purpose of billeting there, entirely 
ignorant of the presence of the British. On discovering the 
town was occupied, the vanguard crept along the hedges 
and corn-stooks, and entrenched themselves parallel to 
the road not five hundred yards from the line of the two 
advanced companies of the 3/Coldstream. They even loop- 
holed a garden wall still closer to those companies. At 
7.30 P.M. No. 3 Company of the 3/Coldstream was on piquet, 
on the road, with a machine gun upon each flank, and wire 
entanglements a short distance ahead. Wheels and horses 
were heard approaching along the road ; * and the sentry 
challenged. The challenge was answered in French ; a 
body of men loomed through the darkness, and the officer 
in command advanced to question them. He was answered 
always in French, but in the course of the parley the 
supposed Frenchmen edged themselves up closer to the 
piquet, and then, suddenly and without the slightest 
warning, lowered their bayonets and charged. In the 
first moment of surprise, they knocked down the officer, 
seized the right-hand machine gun and dragged it away 
ten yards, but a few seconds later they were swept away 
by a volley from the piquet, and the machine gun was 

The piquet was at once reinforced ; and the rest of the 
4th (Guards) Brigade turned out, the 2/Grenadiers coming 
up to the support of the Coldstream along the road from 
the railway northwards. Charge after charge was made by 
the enemy without gaining any advantage, and at 8.30 P.M. 
German artillery opened fire upon the town and upon the 
piquet. This fire was accurate, but the German infantry- 
men shot far too high and accomplished little, until, having 
by means of incendiary bombs set light to some straw- 
stacks in a farmyard close to the British, they apparently 
realized for the first time, by the light of the flames, that 
their way was barred only by a single thin line. 2 There- 
upon they tried, but unsuccessfully, to enfilade the Guards. 
The engagement went on until past midnight when a 

1 This, according to the story of a German general who was present, 
was the regimental transport which was ordered to trot past the column 
to get to the billets. 

2 Lance- Corporal G. H. Wyatt, 3rd Coldstream Guards, dashed at and 
extinguished the burning straw, though the enemy was only 25 yards 
distant. For this and a further act of bravery at Villers Cottlrets on 1st 
September, he received the Victoria Cross. 


howitzer of the 60th Battery was brought up by hand 25 Aug. 
within close range and with its third round silenced the 1914 - 
German guns. This seems to have decided the issue ; and 
the enemy drew off. The losses of the 3/Coldstream were 
one hundred and twenty ; those of the Germans, according 
to their official casualty lists, were 127. 1 By about 4 A.M. 
on the 26th, all was again quiet on the line of the I. Corps. 
But, as it was impossible in the dark to discover the 
scope of the attack, the information sent back to G.H.Q. 
from the I. Corps was somewhat alarming. It stated at 
1.35 A.M. that the situation was very critical, and at 3.50 
A.M., it was suggested that the troops near Le Cateau should 
assist by advancing straight on Landrecies. Although the 
situation was soon restored and better news sent, all this, 
and the uncertainty as to what the Forest of Mormal 
might conceal, tended to confirm the view of G.H.Q. that 
the continuation of the retirement was the proper course. 


The labours of the II. Corps lasted to as late an hour Map 9 
on the night of the 25th/26th as those of the I. Corps. All 
through the evening the stream of transport flowed slowly 
and uneasily through Solesmes, and shortly before dark the 
Germans closed more resolutely on the South Lancashire 
and Wiltshire (7th Infantry Brigade), the rear guard of 
the 3rd Division before that town, and brought their 
artillery up to close range, though pushing forward only 
small bodies of infantry. They did not, however, really 
press hard and, when darkness fell, went into bivouac. 
This enabled the two battalions to be withdrawn, much 
scattered, indeed, and with the loss of several small detach- 

1 The following information was obtained from Berlin in 1921 : 
The German forces involved in the fighting at Landrecies consisted 
of the 14th Infantry Brigade (Major-General von Oven) of the IV. Corps, 
containing the 27th and 165th Infantry Regiments, one squadron 10th 
Hussars, and the 4th Field Artillery Regiment. Of these the 165th Infantry 
Regiment and three batteries were only employed in the later stages of the 

Casualties : 27th Inf. Rgt. 1 officer, 32 men killed, 

4 officers, 65 men wounded ; 
165th Inf. Rgt. 3 men wounded, 
2 men missing ; 

10th Hussars 1 man wounded ; 
4th Field Artillery Rgt. 3 officers and 16 men killed ; 

total casualties, 127. 
See also footnote 1, p. 132. 


ments cut off by the enemy, but without further mishap. 1 
The 4th Division meanwhile stood fast on the heights im- 
mediately south of Solesmes, while the mass of transport 
and troops disentangled itself on the roads leading south and 
south-east upon Caudry and Le Cateau. The 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade, with the headquarters and portions of the 2nd, 
pushed through the congested streets of Le Cateau on to 
Catillon, where it halted for the night between 10 and 11 
P.M. The 1st Cavalry Brigade bivouacked in the fields 
south of Le Cateau, with the exception of the 5th Dragoon 
Guards, who retired after dark to Inchy and thence shortly 
before midnight to Troisvilles, west of Le Cateau, their 
horses utterly exhausted. The 19th Infantry Brigade, 
together with two companies of the Scots Fusiliers which 
had lost connection with the rear guard of the 9th Infantry 
Brigade, marched into Le Cateau at 10 P.M. and bivouacked 
in the central square and at the goods station. The bulk 
of the 7th Infantry Brigade retired to Caudry, but the Irish 
Rifles and the 41st Battery, the last party of the rear guard, 
only reached Le Cateau about 10 P.M., when finding they 
could not rejoin their brigades direct, owing to the rapid 
advance of the enemy, they passed southward to Reumont, 
where they bivouacked at 2 A.M. on the 26th. At least 
one detachment of the Wiltshire, having with some diffi- 
culty avoided capture, also found its way into Le Cateau 
in the early hours of the 26th. The masses of troops, 
guns and transport at dusk and for many hours after- 
wards pressing through the northern entrance to the town 
created extraordinary congestion. The British alone would 
have sufficed to crowd it, and besides the British a con- 
siderable body of French Chasseurs 2 marched in from 
Valenciennes. The mile of road from Montay to Le Cateau 
falls very steeply and becomes a defile, and here infantry, 
cavalry, guns and wagons, in places three abreast, were 
jammed together in what seemed irremediable confusion. 

1 Both infantry brigades of the German 8th Division (IV. Corps) and 
the 4th Cavalry Division had casualties at Solesmes on 25th August (see 
"Schlachten und Gefechte"). 

The action seems to have been regarded as a serious one by the Germans, 
for the official name of " The Battle of Solesmes and Le Cateau " is given 
to the fighting on 25th/27th August 1914. Von Kluck states : " The 
" IV. Corps was able to attack the British troops at Solesmes, but they did 
" not evacuate the village until after nightfall, after putting up an obstinate 
" resistance." So unexpected was this that v. Kluck himself arrived 
in the town during the fight, having selected it as his night quarters. 

2 The narrative of Colonel H. L. James, 2/Manchester, is the authority 
for this statement. 


Had the Germans pushed on, even with a small force 25 Aug. 
supported by guns, they might have done terrible damage, 1914 - 
for one or two shells would have sufficed to produce a 
complete block on the road ; the rear parties of the 
Suffolks and Manchesters (14th Infantry Brigade), rear 
guard of the 5th Division, had been withdrawn at dusk, and 
there would have been nothing to stop an enterprising 
enemy. But the Germans were no less weary than the 
British, and they had also gained sufficient experience of 
British rapid fire to make them cautious. They had gone 
into bivouac here as at Solesmes ; and though at dusk they 
were in force only five miles away, 1 they left the British 
free to disentangle themselves at their leisure. The process 
was long and tedious, and until a late hour Viesly was as 
hopelessly blocked as Solesmes had been. 

Though the 4th Division had been unmolested since 
dusk, except by one or two cavalry patrols which were 
quickly driven off, it was not free to begin to move off until 
9 P.M. During its detention near Solesmes the remainder 
of its Divisional Artillery, except the Heavy Battery, had 
been detraining, and the 2/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 
which had not come up with the 12th Infantry Brigade, 
arrived at Ligny, where it took over guard of the divisional 
transport. In view of the flank march that the division 
would later have to make to its new position on the left of 
the Le Cateau line, two companies of this battalion were 
in the afternoon sent as a western flank guard to occupy 
Bevillers and Beauvois. A hasty reconnaissance of the Map 10. 
new ground was made by Brigadier-General Haldane, and 
he selected a good reverse-slope position, or, as it was then 
called, " back position," covering Haucourt. 

At 5 P.M. 4th Division warning orders for the march to 
and occupation of the position were issued. 2 A G.H.Q. 
alteration, sent out at 6.40 P.M., reduced the length of front 
to be held, and made it from Fontaine au Pire to Wambaix, 
that is to say about three miles. The orders directed that 
the llth and 12th Infantry Brigades should hold the front 
line, with the 10th in reserve at Haucourt, whilst the 
artillery should assemble at Ligny. 

The artillery (with the exception of the XXXII. 
Brigade, which was with the rear guard) arrived fairly early 

1 This would appear to be part of the IV. Corps which spent the night 
at Bousies and adjoining villages, with the main body of the ///. behind 
it at Jolimetz and beyond. 

2 Appendix 15. 



in the evening ; the 12th Infantry Brigade moved off from 
the heights above Solesmes soon after 9 P.M. ; the llth, an 
hour later ; and the 10th Infantry Brigade, which could 
not move until the 3rd Division got clear of Briastre, at 
midnight. As the three brigades marched off south-west 
rain was falling heavily and the darkness was only relieved 
on the northern horizon by the red glow of villages fired by 
the enemy. Meantime, instructions from G.H.Q., received 
in the afternoon, intimated that the retirement would 
probably be continued at 7 A.M. next morning, but it was 
on the position above defined that the troops of the 4th 
Division stood when the first shots were fired in the early 
morning of the 26th. 

The head of General Sordet's Cavalry Corps had passed 
through Ligny, behind the Le Cateau position, in the course 
of the day, and the corps bivouacked for the night near 
Walincourt. The end of his long march and his arrival on 
the western flank of the British was, perhaps, the one cheer- 
ful feature in a gloomy situation. 


Map 3. Von Kluck's book and the special sketch-map for the 
25th/26th August which he has provided make it perfectly 
clear how there came to be collisions between the British 
and the Germans at Maroilles, Landrecies and Solesmes on 
the night of the 25th/26th. 

On the evening of the 24th August he issued opera- 
tion orders in the expectation that the British Army would 
accept battle on the line Maubeuge Bavai Valenciennes, 
making his plans for a " Cannae " on a small scale. His 
IX. Corps was to attack against Bavai, that is against 
General Haig, and guard against any interference from 
Maubeuge; the III. Corps against St. Vaast Wargnies, that 
is against General Smith-Dorrien ; the IV. Corps was to 
envelop the British western flank ; and the II. Cavalry 
Corps was to work round in rear of the British and cut 
off their retreat " westwards." With the //. Corps only a 
march in rear and close to Conde, and the IV. Reserve Corps 
following on, " the envelopment of the British Army, pro- 
vided it stood, seemed certain." 

The First Army Staff appears to have been considerably 
misled by air reports. Those of the evening of the 24th 
and early morning of the 25th gave " the impression of a 


general retreat on Maubeuge " : * columns were converg- 25 Aug. 
ing on Bavai, and the roads from Le Quesnoy to the south 1914 - 
and south-west, as well as the main roads through the Forest 
of Mormal were reported clear of troops. At 7.15 A.M. orders 
were sent out by motor car for the //., ///. and IV. Corps 
to wheel southwards on Aulnoye, Landrecies and Le Cateau, 
and the //. Cavalry Corps to advance to the area north- 
west of Guise. " It was hoped to cut off the British and 
then turn against the left flank of the French." 

At 9 A.M., however, the " surprising air report " arrived 
that long columns were moving from Bavai on Le Cateau 
by the Roman Road and that numerous small columns were 
crossing the Selle, north and south of Solesmes. "The 
" enemy was marching in an almost opposite direction to 
" what was supposed earlier in the morning." Fresh orders 
were rapidly sent out to attack the British and prevent their 
further retreat : The //. Cavalry Corps was to head them 
off, the ///. Corps to make its right (west) column stronger, 
the IV. Corps to march with its right wing on Solesmes 
Le Cateau, with the II. Corps west of it. The IX. 
Corps was to continue opposite Maubeuge covering the 

In accordance with these orders, the IX. Corps wheeled 
south-eastwards from Bavai and commenced investing 
Maubeuge. 2 The ///. Corps, passing over the old front Map 9. 
of Smith-Dorrien's corps, St. Vaast Wargnies, in two 
divisional columns, pushed its advanced guards through 
the Forest of Mormal south-eastwards by the two good 
roads which lead to Berlaimont and Maroilles. At night 
the 5th Division billeted and bivouacked in the Forest, 
along the high road Maroilles Le Quesnoy, in the area 
Hachette (near the bridge over the Sambre 2 miles N.N.W. 
of Maroilles) Locquignol Jolimetz ; 3 and the leading 
troops of its advanced guard came in contact with the 
1 /Royal Berkshire of the 6th Infantry Brigade, as already 
related. 4 The 6th Division halted north of the 5th 
Division^ with half its troops on either side of the Forest : 
the llth Brigade and part of the divisional troops in the 
area, west of the Forest, between Villereau Gommegnies 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 73. 

2 There is a good account of the investment of Maubeuge by the IX. 
Corps on the 25th August, the blocking of the roads, construction of 
entanglements, etc., in Tepp's " In Siegessturm nach Paris." 

3 This information was obtained in Berlin in January 1922. 

4 See p. 125. The III. Battalion of the 48th Infantry Regiment was in 
action at Maroilles (Kaupert's "Das Infanterie-Regiment No. 48," p. 16). 


Amfroipret and the border of the Forest ; the 12th 
Brigade and the rest of the divisional troops in the area, 
east of the Forest, La Grande Carriere Aymeries Ber- 
laimont Sassegnies. 

The IV. Corps, marching due south, also advanced in 
two columns, one via Le Quesnoy and then past the south- 
west boundary of the Forest of Mormal to Landrecies, and 
the other via Valenciennes to Solesmes. Thus they came 
in contact with the British 2nd x and 3rd Divisions. The 
//. Cavalry Corps billeted four to eight miles east of 
Cambrai, around Avesnes lez Aubert. 

Map 3. Of the German Second Army, as already noticed, the VII. 
Corps was detailed to invest the eastern side of Maubeuge. 
The X. Reserve Corps was near Solre le Chateau on the 
night of the 25th/26th August, and its head, together with 
the /. Cavalry Corps, only reached Marbaix (roughly the 
right of the British front on the night of the 25th/26th) 
late on the 26th. 2 

Map 9. Thus it was that on the evening of the 25th, the German 
II. Cavalry Corps and IV. and ///. Corps were close 
enough to the British to be able to strike in force at Le 
Cateau in the early morning, whilst the IV. Reserve, II. 
and X. Reserve were within a march of the field, with parts 
of the IX. and VII. Corps, drawn from the investment of 
Maubeuge, available in case of need. 


Map 2. It is convenient to notice here that during the 24th, 
25th and 26th August the Belgian Army, in order to assist 
the French and British troops fighting on the Sambre and 

1 The following extract from a book by Oberleutnant Dr. Lohrisch, 
published in 1917, entitled " Im Siegessturm von Liittich an die Marne," 
throws a little light on Landrecies. His battalion (I. of the 27th Infantry 
Regiment) marched on the 25th via Le Quesnoy to Bousies (four miles 
north-west of Landrecies), where it halted for the night. He. continues 

Our advanced guard stumbled on the enemy at Landrecies, and the II. 
and 111. Battalions, which were billeted at Robersart and Fontaine au 
Bois (west of Bousies), and two of our companies were sent forward in the 
direction of the little town. ... At 5.45 A.M. (on the 26th) the regiment 
was ordered to capture Landrecies, as the tired troops sent forward the 
night before, on account of difficulties caused by the darkness and ignor- 
ance of the ground, had been compelled to stop their operations." 

2 See von Bulow and Vogel. On the night of the 25th/26th the Guard 
Cavalry Division was at Liessies (12 miles east of Marbaix), and the 2nd 
Cavalry Division at Sivry, 6 miles behind it (" Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 
70, 71). 


on the Mons Canal, made a sortie against the German 25 Aug. 
corps observing Antwerp, with a view to detaining them 1914 ^ 
there, and, if possible, acting against the German com- 
munications passing through Lou vain and Brussels. 

On the 24th a reconnaissance was made, and on the 
25th four divisions, with a fifth division and the cavalry 
division in reserve, attacked southwards from Malines 
towards the gap between Lou vain and Brussels. Good 
progress was made, and the fight continued on the 26th, 
when information from Paris of the withdrawal of the 
French and British forces having been received, and also 
of the intention of General Joffre to resume the offensive 
at a later date, it was decided to adopt a similar course 
a,nd retire into Antwerp. 

As will be seen, the second Belgian sortie took place 
during the Battle of the Marne. 


At 7.30 P.M. on the 25th August the British Commander- Map 3. 
in-Chief, who had at 6 P.M. established his headquarters at 
St. Quentin, issued his orders without, of course, having the 
exact information as to the enemy which has just been given 
for the retreat to be continued ten to fifteen miles to the 
south-west on the morrow. 1 According to these orders, 
the I. Corps was to use the road from Le Cateau to Busigny 
and take up its billets in the area of Busigny ; the II. 
Corps was to billet about Fremont and Beaurevoir, and the 
4th Division at Le Catelet. Communications from General 
Joffre admitted that his attempt at the offensive had 
failed, and that his intention was to retire to the line Laon 
La Fere St. Quentin, and from this position to take the 
offensive again. There seemed little time to lose. The 
enemy was in touch with the British at several places, and 
had considerable forces within a few miles of them. The 
Germans were known to be pushing troops with all- speed 
towards the western flank of the British, where General 
d'Amade's six Reserve and Territorial divisions guarded 
the long line to the sea. The I. Corps had already been 
struck at Maroilles and at Landrecies, the II. at Solesmes ; 
and it was not difficult to guess what these blows might 
portend. Sir Douglas Haig's troops stood to arms all 
night, losing the rest of which they were so much in need ; 
and it was feared that the attack at Landrecies might mean 

1 Appendix 14. 


that the Germans were already in force across the southern 
end of the Forest of Mormal, between Landrecies and the 
Roman Road. 1 It will be remembered that on the after- 
noon of the 25th Sir Douglas Haig had issued instructions 
for the I. Corps to march at 2 A.M. to the right of the Le 
Cateau position. 2 These orders he cancelled on receiving 
those of the Field-Marshal to continue on to Busigny. 


Map 9. Only a sketch would give an idea how the various 
units of the II. Corps had been jostled between the barrier 
of the Forest of Mormal, which edged them away to the 
west, and the pressure of the enemy on the western flank, 
which bore them back towards the east. To General 
Smith-Dorrien the true situation did not reveal itself until 
late at night. At 10.15 P.M. he too had issued orders for 
the renewal of the retreat to the line prescribed by Sir 
John French : the transport to start at 4 A.M. and the main 
bodies at 7 A.M. 3 

Meantime, the divisions of his corps, acting on his 
previous order, were in readiness on or near the Le Cateau 
position : the 3rd Division, under orders issued at 9.42 
P.M., was to stand to arms at 4 A.M. and be prepared to 
occupy the sections of the position allotted in case of 
attack ; and two and a half infantry brigades of the 5th 
Division were bivouacking on a line across the Troisvilles 
Le Cateau roads, with the remaining two battalions posted 
on the high ground north-east of Le Cateau to connect 
with the I. Corps as originally arranged ; this division had 
orders to stand to arms at 3.30 A.M. 

G.H.Q. orders for the continuance of the retreat, and 
for the Cavalry Division to cover it on the north and west, 4 
had not reached General Allenby at his headquarters at 
Beaumont until after 11 P.M. Shortly after their receipt, 
Lieut. -Colonel Ansell of the 5th Dragoon Guards came in to 
report that his regiment and the 4th Division had safely 
withdrawn from the high ground north of Viesly, which 
overlooks Solesmes, and that the enemy was in possession 
of it. As it was this high ground and the ridges abreast 
of it that the cavalry must occupy to cover the initial 
stages of the retirement from the Le Cateau position, and 
General Allenby had not sufficient force in fact, only 

1 The German 8th Division was there, with the 5th Division in rear of it. 

2 See p. 115. 3 Appendix 16. 4 Appendix 14. 


the 4th Cavalry Brigade under his hand to recapture it, 26 Aug. 
he proceeded at once to General Smith-Dorrien's head- 
quarters at Bertry. There he explained the situation, and 
expressed the opinion that, the Germans being so close, 
unless the troops of the II. Corps and 4th Division could 
march " before daylight," the enemy would be upon them 
before they could start, and it would be necessary to fight. 
General Smith-Dorrien thereupon at 2 A.M. sent for General 
Hubert Hamilton, commanding the 3rd Division, whose head- 
quarters were close at hand, and asked him if it was possible 
to get on the move during the hours of darkness. His reply 
was that many units of the division were only just coming 
in, and that he did not think that he could get them 
formed up for retreat before 9 A.M. General Allenby 
further said that his division was too much scattered and 
exhausted to be able to give useful assistance in covering 
the retreat next day. 1 General Smith-Dorrien, after a 
full discussion of the situation with Generals Allenby and 
Hamilton, reluctantly came to the decision that he must 
stand his ground. To do this he must ask the commanders 
of the Cavalry Division and of the 4th Division to place them- 
selves under his orders ; and with them and with the II. Corps 
that is to say, with the whole of the British troops in the 
line from Catillon westwards he would strike the enemy 
hard, and, after he had done so, continue the retreat. 
Whether he could withdraw his troops after such a 
stand would depend on the pressure and weight of the 
German attack. Several German cavalry divisions, and the 
head of a division of the German IV. Corps were already 
before him, the British I. Corps had been attacked by 
another corps, and further forces were known to be hurry- 
ing up. Much would obviously depend on breaking off 
the action before overwhelming numbers of the enemy 
became effective. To guard his flanks he had to depend 
upon the weary and sorely tried Cavalry Division, with 
some possibility of assistance on the western flank from 
General Sordet's equally weary Cavalry Corps, and on the 
eastern flank from the I. Corps, should it not be held fast 
itself. Help from this quarter, however, appeared un- 
likely, and indeed Sir Douglas Haig at 3.50 A.M. asked for 
assistance from the II. Corps. The situation, in short, 

1 The I. Corps was equally " exhausted, and could not get further in 
without rest " ; and therefore could not come " further west so as to fill 
the gap between Le Cateau and Landrecies." (See Sir John French's 
Despatch, 7th September 1914.) 


seemed to him one that could be saved only by desperate 
measures. General Allenby promptly accepted the invita- 
tion to act under his command ; General Snow of the 4th 
Division there was no doubt would do likewise when the 
request reached him. 

A lengthy message was despatched by II. Corps at 
3.30 A.M. to G.H.Q. St. Quentin, by motor car, which was 
received there about 5 A.M., informing Sir John French in 
detail of the decision taken. At 5 A.M. another message 
was sent asking that General Sordet might be told that 
the II. Corps was not retiring. The first message was 
acknowledged by a reply, sent off from G.H.Q. at 5 A.M., 1 
which, after giving the latest information, concluded : 

" If you can hold your ground the situation appears 
" likely to improve. 4th Division must co-operate. 
" French troops are taking offensive on right of I. Corps. 
" Although you are given a free hand as to method this 
" telegram is not intended to convey the impression that 
" I am not as anxious for you to carry out the retirement 
" and you must make every endeavour to do so." 

Shortly after 6 A.M. Sir H. Smith-Dorrien communi- 
cated further with G.H.Q. by the railway telephone ; and 
G.H.Q. warned the 4th Division that the II. Corps might 
not be able to continue the retirement at the time arranged 
and that it was to cover Sir H. Smith - Dorrien's left 

The die having been cast, it remained only for General 
Smith-Dorrien to inform his subordinates. As General 
Hubert Hamilton had been present at the conference, this 
was easy as regards the 3rd Division ; to Sir Charles 
Fergusson he went himself about 4 A.M. and whilst he was 
discussing the situation the commander of the 5th Division 
drew his attention to the fact that formed bodies, the rear 
guard of the 3rd Division, were still coming in, dead beat. 
The actual orders to stand fast, which were conveyed by 
two staff officers in a motor car, reached 5th Divisional 
Headquarters shortly afterwards. A staff officer was sent 
to the 4th Division, but did not arrive at Haucourt until 
5 A.M., only a short time before the division became 
engaged. The news that came in meanwhile to II. Corps 
Headquarters was not reassuring. At 2.30 A.M. General 
Smith-Dorrien heard that the Germans had occupied 

1 This is the hour given on the message form and in the Operations file, 
but comparison with the times of other messages indicates that it must 
have been later. 


Cambrai ; and at 3.45 A.M. that they were working round 26 Aug. 
to the south of Landrecies. These details were neither of 1914 ' 
them true ; but, true or false, they could not affect his 
resolution. 1 

Seeing that many of the brigades had only lately come 
in, it was inevitable that the divisional commanders should 
have considerable difficulty in communicating the order to 
stand fast to their brigadiers, owing to the uncertainty of 
their whereabouts : General Shaw of the 9th Infantry 
Brigade, being in Beaumont, received the order through 
General Allenby at 3.30 A.M. ; the 7th and 8th Infantry 
Brigades, having stood to arms at 4 A.M., were actually on 
the position and improving trenches when fired on at 6 A.M. 
There is no record of the order not to retire at 7 A.M. reach- 
ing them. Of the 5th Division, Count Gleichen of the 
15th Infantry Brigade, being nearest to Divisional Head- 
quarters, heard at 5 A.M., and the other two infantry 
brigadiers about 6 A.M. 


We left the 4th Division marching through the darkness Map 9. 
to take up its position on the extreme left of General 
Smith-Dorrien's line between Fontaine au Pire and Wam- 
baix, with its reserve at Haucourt. 2 The first of the 
troops to reach their destination, about 1 A.M., were the 
headquarters and two companies of the 2/Inniskilling 
which had left Ligny shortly before midnight to secure 
Esnes (5 miles south-east of Cambrai). There they found 
a small party of General Sordet's cavalry which had 
barricaded the western approaches to the village. The 
two remaining companies of the battalion, it will be 
recalled, had been detached as a flank guard to Beauvois 
and Bevillers (both about four miles north-east of Esnes) 
on the afternoon of the 25th. Just after darkness fell, 
the outposts before Bevillers were suddenly aware of a 
troop of German horse, which came within thirty yards 
of them before it was recognized to be hostile, and was 
followed by six motor lorries full of infantry. The Innis- 
killings opened rapid fire, with what effect could not be 
seen, but the enemy retired in haste. The two companies 
remained in their positions until 3 A.M. when, by order of 

1 Actually, the French 84th Territorial Division was in occupation of 
Cambrai and its northern approaches. 

2 See p. 130. 


their brigadier, they marched for Longsart (just north- 
west of Haucourt). Meanwhile, the advanced guard of 
the 12th Infantry Brigade two companies of the Essex 
which had left Bethencourt at 10 P.M., reached Longsart 
about 3.30 A.M., and the 2/Lancashire Fusiliers came 
in a little later. Both parties entrenched themselves on 
the plateau just to the north-west of the hamlet. The 
1 /King's Own reached the eastern end of Haucourt shortly 
after 4 A.M. and halted there, General Sordet's rear guard 
riding through the village during the halt. At 4.30 A.M. 
the two remaining companies of the Essex passed their 
comrades on the way to Haucourt ; and towards 5 A.M. 
the advanced companies of the Inniskillings also came in 
to Longsart. Thus by 5 A.M. the whole of the 12th Infantry 
Brigade had reached its allotted ground. During these 
hours the 10th Infantry Brigade was also approaching its 
position in reserve at Haucourt, hungry, wet and weary 
after its hurried journey to Le Cateau by train, its equally 
hurried march to Solesmes, and its heavy duties as rear 
guard to the 4th Division. It had entered Caudry at the 
first streak of dawn, and by 4.30 A.M. had arrived at 
Haucourt, where the men threw themselves down and 
slept, hoping that, being in reserve to the division, they 
might have a little rest. A French cavalry patrol return- 
ing shortly before 5 A.M. reported that the front was clear, 
but there was no means of verifying this except by using 
the horses of field officers and the Staff, for reasons which 
will appear. 

Meanwhile, the llth Infantry Brigade had reached 
Fontaine au Pire, on the right of the 12th, at 2.45 A.M., 
and halted at its northern end. Its rear guard two 
companies of the I/Somerset Light Infantry then passed 
through it on its way to Ligny, and the 1 /Rifle Brigade 
found the outposts at the northern end of Beauvois (Beau- 
vois and Fontaine au Pire are actually one long straggling 
village), whilst the rest of the brigade slept. At 5 A.M. 
the battalions were just moving off to their place in the 
line when German guns opened upon the troops to the 
north of Beauvois. No enemy was to be seen except a 
few cavalry ; so the 1 /Rifle Brigade occupied a position 
to the north-west of the village, while detachments of 
the three remaining battalions covered its northern and 
north-eastern approaches. Under cover of this screen, 
the main body of the brigade fell back and occupied a 
line south-westward from the " Quarry (Carrieres) " (a little 


to the south-west of Fontaine), with its left battalion, the 26 Aug. 
I/Hampshire, astride the railway. 1914 

Thus, by 5 A.M. on the 26th, the infantry of the 4th 
Division had to all intents occupied the positions assigned 
to it for the night of the 25th/26th, although, owing to 
the darkness, it had settled down on the forward instead 
of the reverse slope. The artillery was not in battle 
position, as the Divisional Artillery Commander was with 
Divisional Headquarters and therefore expected to resume 
the retirement at 7 A.M. 

Though complete in field artillery and infantry, the 
4th Division was as yet without its Divisional Cavalry 1 
and Cyclists, Heavy Battery, Field Engineers, Signal 
Company, 2 Train, Ammunition Column and Field Am- 
bulances. Hence there were no mounted troops to furnish 
patrols or covering parties, no 60-pdrs. to mow down the 
enemy before deployment as was done with such striking 
effect by the Heavy Battery of the 5th Division on the 
right, no engineers to superintend working parties, very 
limited means of attending to wounded, no means of 
removing them, and, above all, no means of controlling 
from divisional headquarters the general movements of 
some fifteen thousand men, extended along a front of five 
miles, except by the use of mounted officers and orderlies. 
The ground on which the 4th Division lay, on the left 
of the British line, was a dreary boggy moor, soaked by 
the rain of the previous night, and in many places churned 
into deep mud by the passage of men, horses, guns and 
vehicles ; and over such a surface horses, already none too 
fresh, were soon exhausted by a few hard gallops. 

The 4th Division had received instructions, brought by 
an officer from G.H.Q. at midnight, to continue the re- 
treat to Le Catelet, but the orders for the march had not 
been issued to the brigades, for they were all on the move. 
At 5 A.M. officers were sent out to ascertain the positions 
of the troops, and the orders were ready to be despatched 

1 The Divisional Cavalry (one squadron of the 19th Hussars) reached 
St. Quentin by train on the morning of the 26th and marched at 4.30 A.M. 
It was, however, intercepted by the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, and ordered to 
join it, being formed into a composite regiment with another of its own 
squadrons (Divisional Cavalry of the 5th Division), and half a squadron 
of the 4th Dragoon Guards. Had it been free to march to its own division, 
however, it could not have reached it in time to carry out the essential 
service of reconnaissance to the front. 

2 The Headquarters Section of a Divisional Signal Company contained 
three cable sections with telephone equipment, motor cyclists, push 
cyclists, mounted men, heliographs and other means of communication. 


as soon as the officers reported, should the situation permit 
retirement. Almost immediately after this, Captain Walcot 
arrived from General Smith - Dorrien to announce his 
decision to stand and request that the 4th Division would 
cover his flank. General Snow agreed to do so, and at 
5.30 A.M. sent messages to his brigades to take up the 
positions already ordered, and to the llth Infantry Brigade 
to get in touch with the 3rd Division. Shortly after this 
the officers who had been to them returned reporting, to 
use the words of one of them, that the infantry were 
already " at it hammer and tongs." 



(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 10 & 11 x ) 

THE 26th August, the anniversary of Crecy, dawned hot Sketch 3. 
and misty, with some prospect that the historic weather Ma P 10 - 
of A.D. 1346 would be repeated, and the certainty that 
in an almost similarly desperate situation, the stout 
hearts of our island race would again ensure triumph over 
superiority of numbers, and rob the enemy of what he 
considered an easy prey. 

It may be recalled that although in the first instance 
it was the intention of G.H.Q. to occupy a position in the 
neighbourhood of Le Cateau, a subsequent order directed 
the retreat to be continued. 2 It was upon the original 
understanding and in expectation that the I. Corps would 

1 After Map 11 had been struck off, additional information with regard 
to the situation of the German forces was obtained. The following cor- 
rections should therefore be made, in green, commencing on the East : 

(1) For " Advance of head of III. Corps " read " Advance of 5th 

(2) The 6th Division should be shown on the Roman Road, with its 
head at Forest (5,000 yards north-east of Le Cateau), " about 7 P.M." 

(3) The following should be substituted for the information about the 
German cavalry and Jdger : 

The 4th Cavalry Division attacking against Bethencourt from the 
north ; front from about Prayelle to a little north-east of Jeune Bois. 

(4) 13th and 14th Cavalry Brigades of the 9th Cavalry Division attacking 
against Caudry from the north ; front Jeune Bois to south-east corner of 

(5) 19th Cavalry Brigade of the 9th Cavalry Division, with 3, 9, and 10 
Jdger Battalions, attacking against Fontaine au Pire from north-west ; 
front from southern end of Beauvais, halfway to the railway station south 
of Cattenieres. 

(6) 2nd Cavalry Division, with 4th and 7th Jdger Battalions^ attacking 
against Longsart, from the north-west ; front from right of 9th Cavalry 
Division to one mile north of Esnes. 

2 See p. 115. 



be in touch with it on the east, that the dispositions of 
the troops on the ground were made by the II. Corps. 
Although officers had been sent ahead to reconnoitre 
the position, most of the units did not come on to it until 
dark, and heavy rain interfered with the observation of 
those which reached it earlier in the day. Moreover it 
was difficult to identify places by the map, for the only 
one then available was the French uncontoured hachured 
map of the 1 : 80,000 scale, to which British officers were 
not accustomed. When the troops stood to arms about 
4 A.M. under orders to continue the retreat, there was 
a heavy ground mist, so that, though the troops were 
approximately in position, there was little opportunity, or 
apparent necessity, to rectify the line and choose the best 
ground to repel a determined attack by superior numbers. 

The town of Le Cateau lies deep in the narrow valley 
of the river Selle, surrounded on all sides by open culti- 
vated country and occasional moor, with never a fence, 
except in the immediate vicinity of the villages, and 
hardly a tree, except along the chaussees. The river, 
though small, is unfordable. The heights on the east, 
crescent shaped, slightly overlook those on the west, the 
highest ground of which is roughly a T in plan : the 
head (the Reumont ridge), running north to south, 
from Viesly to Reumont, and the stalk (the Le Cateau 
position or Caudry ridge) east to west from Le Cateau to 
Crevecoeur. The reverse or south side of the Caudry 
ridge drops sharply to the Warnelle stream, with higher 
undulating country behind it, dotted with villages and 
woods, admirably suited to cover a retirement. The front 
or north side is broken by a succession of long spurs running 
northwards ; the western end drops to the Schelde Canal. 

Except for the Selle river and the Canal with its accom- 
panying stream, the country was free for the movement 
of troops of all arms, and, from its open character, generally 
suited to defensive action, though there were numerous 
small valleys up which enterprising and well-trained 
infantry could approach unseen. Beetroots and clover 
covered part of the ground, but the other crops had mostly 
been cut and partly harvested. Here and there were 
lines of cattle, picketed Flanders fashion, in the forage 
patches. Crops had been held so sacred at British 
manoeuvres that there was occasionally hesitation before 
troops, particularly mounted troops, would move across 


The town of Le Cateau on the right of the line of the 26 Aug. 
II. Corps was at 4.30 A.M. still full of British transport, 1914 - 
though the long columns, after protracted delay owing 
to the passage of General Sordet's Cavalry Corps across 
them, had for hours been pushing south-westwards along 
the Roman Road. The 19th Infantry Brigade, placed 
under the II. Corps by G.H.Q. orders of the previous night, 
had not yet received any message postponing the retreat, 
as its headquarters could not be found in the dark ; it 
was delayed nearly two hours in starting by the conges- 
tion in the streets, and had hardly got clear being the 
last troops to leave the town when shortly after 6 A.M. 
the first German scouts made their appearance in Le 
Cateau. There was some firing, but they were easily Map 11. 
kept at a distance, and the brigade eventually pursued 
its march to Reumont with hardly a casualty. The I/Duke 
of Cornwall's Light Infantry and half of the I/East Surrey 
(14th Infantry Brigade), which had bivouacked on the 
heights to the east of Le Cateau, and had likewise received 
no orders to stand fast, were at this time formed up in 
column of route by the railway bridge near the south- 
eastern corner of the town, facing west and ready to march 
off at 6.30 A.M. The remainder of the 14th Infantry 
Brigade had meanwhile occupied a position immediately 
to the west of Le Cateau : the Suffolks across the centre 
of the spur which for convenience may be called the 
Montay Spur which runs from the Reumont ridge north- 
eastward to Montay, and the other one and a half battalions 
south of them. Next to the 14th Infantry Brigade, 
but separated from it by a small valley between spurs, 
came the Yorkshire Light Infantry of the 13th Infantry 
Brigade, with the XV. Brigade R.F.A. and the 37th 
Howitzer Battery in close support on the right, and the 
XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. in close support on the left. 
West of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, the Scottish 
Borderers of the same brigade occupied the next ridge of 
rising ground ; and west of them again, the 15th Infantry 
Brigade prolonged the line to the road that leads from 
Troisvilles to Inchy, with the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. in 
rear of it to the east and south-east of Troisvilles. Of 
the rest of the artillery of the 5th Division, the 61st 
Howitzer Battery and 108th Heavy Battery took up 
positions of observation about a mile to the north of 
Reumont, while the 65th Howitzer Battery unlimbered 
to the south-west of Troisvilles. In reserve near Reumont 


was the 19th Infantry Brigade, as orders to halt there 
reached it soon after it left Le Cateau. 

The battalions of the 14th Infantry Brigade which lay 
west of Le Cateau did not receive their counter-orders to 
stand fast until about 6 A.M., and those to the east of the 
town never received them at all. Hence the 5th Division 
was in a manner surprised, and compelled to accept battle 
in positions which were being held with a view to slipping 
away under cover of rear guards. The Suffolks in particu- 
lar, who lay immediately to the west of Le Cateau, were 
badly placed for a general action : there was much dead 
ground on every side ; the field of fire was for the most 
part limited and could nowhere be called good ; and 
small valleys and sunken roads at sundry points gave 
hostile infantry every opportunity of concealing their 
approach. The battalion, in common with the other 
troops of the 5th Division, made shift to throw up such 
entrenchments as it could with its " grubbers," no better 
tools being obtainable. The XXVII. R.F.A. had time 
to dig in its batteries ; but the XV. Brigade for the most 
part had to be content to mask its guns with corn-sheaves. 

But the serious difficulties in which the 5th Division 
became involved during the action of the 26th August 
arose not so much from the lack of preparation of the 
position, as from its belief that the I. Corps would be on 
its right, and hold the high ground east of Le Cateau, 
whence an enemy could rake a considerable portion of 
the line. The risk that this ground would fall into German 
hands had to be accepted by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 
when, late indeed but as early as in the circumstances 
it was possible to come to a decision, he resolved to stand 
and fight. 

Passing now to the dispositions of the 3rd Division, 
the 9th Infantry Brigade took up the line from Troisvilles 
westward to Audencourt. The brigadier, as has been 
told, had received timely notice of Sir Horace Smith- 
Dorrien's intentions and, bringing his battalions early into 
position, enabled them to improve some mathematically 
straight trenches which had been hastily begun by French 
civilians, and to dig themselves fair shelter. The XXIII. 
Brigade R.F.A. was in close support on the reverse side 
of the ridge, with two sections dug in on the forward 
slope, one of the 107th Battery to the right front, and 
one of the 108th Battery on the left rear of the Lincoln- 
shire, the left of the brigade. About a thousand yards 


to the south of these batteries was the 65th Howitzer 26 Aug. 
Battery, and about five hundred yards to the west of 1914 
them the 48th Heavy Battery. 

Next on the left of the 9th Infantry Brigade stood the 
8th Infantry Brigade, holding Audencourt and the ground 
thence westward to Caudry. This brigade also was 
partly dug in, having taken in hand at dawn the work of 
improving and extending some trenches made by French 

The 7th Infantry Brigade occupied Caudry and its 
vicinity. The right of the position along the ridge to 
the north-east of the town was held by the I/ Wiltshire ; 
an enclosure near Point 129, just north of the town, by 
the 2/South Lancashire and the 56th Field Co. R.E. ; 
and the remainder of the line along the north and north- 
western outskirts by the 3/ Worcestershire. The battalions 
of the 7th Infantry Brigade were very weak, many men 
having lost their way in the dark during the retirement 
from Solesmes. The Irish Rifles, indeed, had not yet 
rejoined, being still at Maurois with the 41st Battery. 
A divisional reserve was formed of men collected from 
First Line Transport, Signal Sections, etc. 

Of the rest of the 3rd Divisional Artillery, the XL. 
Brigade R.F.A. was in readiness south-west of Auden- 
court ; two batteries of the XLII. Brigade R.F.A. at the 
north-eastern corner of Caudry ; a section of I Battery 
R.H.A. at the north-western corner ; and the XXX. 
Howitzer Brigade just south of the buildings of Caudry 
facing north-west. Speaking generally, the 3rd Division 
was better posted and more fully prepared for action than 
either the 5th Division on its right or the 4th on its 
left, having received earlier warning of what was expected 
of it. 

Between Caudry and Beauvois there was a gap ; this, 
however, was of no importance, since it could be swept 
by crossfire from the two villages ; and at Bea.uvois 
itself the rear guard of the llth Infantry Brigade was 
still bickering with the advanced parties of the enemy. 
Its main body, as already described, was aligned from the 
east of the " Quarry " south-west towards the Warnelle 
ravine ; and by this time the King's Own had crossed 
the ravine from Haucourt, and was halted in mass near 
the cross roads five hundred yards north-east of Longsart, 
thus filling the gap between the llth and 12th Infantry 



In reserve to General Smith-Dorrien's force there were 
nominally the Cavalry Division and the 19th Infantry 
Brigade ; orders were issued for the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry 
Brigades to proceed to Bazuel and Mazinghien (2 
miles east by south and 4 miles south-east of Le Cateau 
respectively), to guard the right flank ; whilst the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade was to take post at Escaufourt, about 
four miles south-west of Le Cateau. The 4th Cavalry 
Brigade, which had moved at midnight to Inchy, fell 
back to Ligny at dawn. But the orders to the cavalry 
were for the most part very difficult to execute, for only 
the 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades were more or less com- 
plete and concentrated, and they were at opposite ends 
of the line. As it happened, however, part of the 1st and 
2nd Cavalry Brigades, as well as the 3rd Brigade, were 
in the vicinity of Le Cateau and thus available to cover 
the gap between the I. and II. Corps. 

The situation as it appeared to the Germans at night 
is fully disclosed by von Kluck's operation orders issued 
at 11.50 P.M. on the 25th August. In them he ordered 
" the continuation of the pursuit of the beaten enemy " 
in a general south-westerly direction : His right, the //. 
Corps, via Cambrai on Bapaume ; the IV. Reserve Corps 
(then at Valenciennes) starting early, via Vendegies to 
Cattenieres ; the IV. Corps via Caudry and Montay to 
Vendhuille ; the ///. Corps via Le Cateau to Maretz. 
The IX. Corps was still in rear observing the western 
front of Maubeuge and protecting the Lines of Communi- 
cation against sorties from it ; it was to send any troops 
it could spare after the ///. Corps. Orders for the three 
cavalry divisions of von der Marwitz's Corps are not given, 
but von Kluck's narrative states that in the early morning 
they attacked via Wambaix Beauvois Quievy, 1 drove 
the enemy south and held him until the heads of the corps 
appeared. It was then his intention to envelop the 
British Force on both flanks. From von Kluck's own 
account, he seems to have been under a complete mis- 
conception of the situation in the morning. He thought, 
when it was found that the British were not retiring, 
that they were holding a more or less north and south 

1 The orders in " Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 55, are for the 11. Cavalry 
Corps to move due south against the great Roman Road : 

2nd Cavalry Division, with 4th and 7th Jdger, via Carnieres Esnes 

(practically Wambaix). 

9th Cavalry Division, with 3rd, 9th and 10th Jdger, via Beauvois. 
4th Cavalry Division, via Caudry (due south of Quievy). 


position (he ordered " the IV. Corps to envelop the northern ; 26 Aug. 
the ///. Corps the southern flank of the position "), and 1914 
were trying " to draw off in a westerly direction " ; and 
he lost sight of the I. Corps altogether. Possibly, the 
extension of the British front westwards by the newly 
arrived 4th Division helped to mislead him. Further, 
that front at nightfall was established by contact on the 
line Landrecies Solesmes facing north - east ; and the 
move of the 4th Division from Solesmes during the night, 
practically in contact with the Germans, was south-west. 
Possibly he thought the whole force was following the 
same direction. This, of course, fitted in with his pre- 
conceived idea that the British Expeditionary Force was 
based on Ostend, Dunkirk and Calais. 

In the German Second Army, von Biilow also issued 
operation orders that " on the 26th the pursuit of the 
" beaten enemy should be continued in a south-westerly 
" direction with the greatest possible energy." As he had 
to leave the VII. Corps to observe the eastern side of 
Maubeuge, the X. Reserve Corps now became his right. 
This corps only reached Marbaix on the 26th and did 
not get into contact with the British until it struck the 
rear guard of the I. Corps (the 1st (Guards) Brigade) at 
Etreux on the 27th. 

The Eight of the Line. 

Very soon after 6 A.M., while the morning mist was still Map 11. 
thick, the German batteries opened fire for the first time 
from the vicinity of Forest (3 miles N.N.E. of Le Cateau) 1 
upon the troops immediately west of Le Cateau, thereby 
putting a stop to entrenching except so far as it could be 
carried on by the men lying down, with their " grubbers." 
The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and two companies 
of the East Surreys were, as has been told, waiting in 
column of route in Le Cateau, by the railway bridge in 
the Faubourg de Landrecies when, at 6.30 A.M., exactly 
the time that they should have moved off, heavy rifle fire 
was opened upon them from the windows of the neigh- 
bouring houses. Several men fell; but the detachment, 
under the covering fire of the Signal Section and some of 

1 These would appear to have been IV. Corps batteries, but possibly 
there were some III. Corps ones. 


the headquarters of the 14th Infantry Brigade, were 
rapidly led back through a succession of wire fences to 
the high ground above the south-eastern corner of Le 
Cateau. Here the six companies formed a firing line 
north and south athwart the cross roads just to the south 
of the Faubourg de France. How the Germans had con- 
trived to reach the south-eastern outskirts of Le Cateau 
without being seen, is unknown ; 1 but the fact remains 
that, when the action opened, the Germans were in the 
town on the flank of the II. Corps, with every prospect 
of cutting off the detachment of the 14th Infantry Brigade 
which lay on the east of the town, and of pouring through 
the gap between the I. and II. Corps. They lost no time, 
in fact, in following up that detachment, which, however, 
under cover of a counter-attack by the half-battalion of 
the East Surreys, fell back south-east by successive com- 
panies along the road towards Bazuel, repelling simul- 
taneous attacks against its front and its right flank. A 
mile from Bazuel, however, portions of the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade, followed by the 3rd with D Battery, came to its 
help ; and with their support the Cornwall Light Infantry 
and East Surreys began to move westward to rejoin their 
brigade soon after 8 A.M. The Germans, favoured by the 
mist, had by this time worked up the valley of the Selle 
southward from Le Cateau, for about a mile, with no 
very clear idea, probably, of what was going forward, 
when they were caught by this counter-attack on their 
eastern flank, and for a time their progress seems to have 
been arrested. 

Meanwhile fresh German batteries had opened fire 
from a concealed position near Rambourlieux Farm (2 
miles W.N.W. of Le Cateau) against the troops between 
Le Cateau and the Roman Road, now the right of the 
British line, and practically enfiladed the whole of them 
with most destructive effect. The British guns replied 
as well as they could with nothing but the flashes to 
guide them, for, though the German aeroplanes were 
active in this quarter of the field, British machines were 
not employed in aid of the artillery. The infantry, having 
no targets as yet, was obliged to endure the bombardment 
passively, though comparatively early in the day that 
is to say, soon after 8 A.M. German skirmishers climbed 

1 They had not far to come, as Bousies and villages round it, only 
four miles from Le Cateau, were occupied by part of the German 7th 
Division on the night of the 25th/26th ; it marched off at 5 A.M. (Lohrisch). 


to Point 150 on the summit of the Montay Spur, and 26 Aug. 
began firing at the British gunners. Upon these, and also 1914 - 
upon a concealed German machine gun on the Cambrai 
road the left company of the Suffolks opened fire ; but 
there was some doubt as to the situation, for it never 
occurred to any of the officers that the high ground im- 
mediately to the east and west of Le Cateau would be 
left open to free occupation by the enemy. Of the fight 
that was going forward in the valley of the Selle they 
could see nothing nor, in the roar of the battle, hear 
anything either. 

The Duke of Cornwall's L.I. and the East Surreys 
were, as a matter of fact, pressing slowly but steadily 
forward in spite of considerable opposition ; and two 
companies of the former became separated from the rest 
of the detachment, which was advancing westward, and 
turned to the south-west upon St. Benin. Some confusion 
was caused in the advance by the presence of Germans 
dressed in what appeared to be khaki, which more than 
once misled the British as to the action they should take 
in order to rejoin their division. However, D Battery 
and the southern half -battalion of the Cornwall L.I. suc- 
ceeded in enfilading the German troops in the valley, and 
the enemy withdrew to the eastward, to all appearances 
pretty severely punished. The greater number of the 
Cornwall L.I. and East Surreys then moved south-west 
on Escaufourt, though one detachment, while still 500 
yards short of St. Benin, turned westward, and made for 
Reumont, where 5th Divisional Headquarters were estab- 
lished. The bulk of the Cornwall L.I. arrived at Escau- 
fourt between 11 A.M. and noon, and found that they had 
cut their way through the Germans at the comparatively 
small cost of two hundred casualties, and this number 
in the course of the following days was reduced to one- 
half by the return of missing men. The half-battalion 
of the East Surreys made its way to Maurois, beyond 
Reumont and the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Brigades retired 
with great deliberation due south up the valley towards 
St. Soupplet. The first turning movement of the Germans 
on the eastern flank attempted, it is true, in no great 
strength had thus been foiled. 

During this period, however, the troubles of the troops 
immediately to the west of Le Cateau were increasing. 
About 10 A.M. the Germans brought guns up to the summit 
of the heights east of the town, and the devoted batteries 


and battalions of the British 5th Division on the high 
ground between the town and the Roman Road, were 
now enfiladed from both flanks. The llth Battery man- 
handled two guns round to the east and replied effectively 
to the German fire ; but the concentration of a superior 
number of German guns, probably the artillery of the 5th 
and 7th Divisions, upon the exposed batteries of the XV. 
and XXVIII. Brigades R.F.A. caused considerable losses ; 
salvos of shells crashed down on gun after gun in suc- 
cession, but the gunners stood to their work, and the supply 
of ammunition never failed. The Suffolks and Yorkshire 
Light Infantry, the front line of the 14th and 13th Infantry 
Brigades, were also assailed by an unceasing storm of 
shrapnel and high-explosive shell, but vied with the 
artillery in steadiness. At 9.45 A.M. the Argyll and 
Sutherland Highlanders, of the 19th Infantry Brigade, 
who had been ordered forward from Reumont, arrived on 
the right rear of the Suffolks; two companies dug them- 
selves such cover as they were able with their " grubbers " 
on the ridge, while the rest remained in the hollow to 
the west of them. About 10 A.M. the firing line at last 
had a target, for German battalions began to advance 
in thick masses along a front of over two miles from the 
valley of the Selle to Rambourlieux Farm. 1 The llth 
Battery, man -handling a second section round to the 
right, fired upon them in the valley at pointblank range 
with great execution. Before long, every officer of this 
battery had fallen, and so many men that only enough 
were left to work a single gun. But that single gun never 
ceased firing ; and the other batteries, nearly all of which 
had suffered heavily, showed the like indomitable spirit. 
From Reumont also the 108th Heavy Battery burst its 
sixty-pounder shells among the hostile infantry with 
beautiful precision, tearing great gaps in their swarming 
ranks and strewing the ground with killed and wounded. 

But losses did not stop the German infantry of 1914. 
The gaps were instantly filled, and the advance of the 
enemy in the valley, though retarded, was not brought 
to a standstill. Parties reached a little copse upon Montay 
Spur, and strove to enfilade the Suffolks from the north, 
but they were checked mainly by a machine gun of the York- 

1 This was, no doubt, the attack of the enemy 7th Division, with the 
14th Infantry Brigade on both sides of the Forest Le Cateau road and 
13th Infantry Brigade on both sides of the Forest Montay road (see 


shire Light Infantry posted on the Roman Road. Further 26 Aug. 
to the west, the Germans made less progress. From the 1914 - 
region of Rambourlieux Farm, profiting by past experience, 
they came forward in small bodies, at wide intervals, and 
taking cover behind the corn-stooks that covered the 
fields ; but, though they attacked again and again, they 
were driven back by the shells of the artillery. In the 
zone allotted to the 37th and 52nd Batteries and the 
XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. the Germans came on in close 
formation, and suffered very heavily. The first target 
of the 122nd Battery was a platoon in line, with the men 
shoulder to shoulder, which emerged from a fold in the 
ground. The battery commander gave the order " one 
round gun fire," and every man of the Germans fell. At 
every subsequent effort of the enemy in this direction, 
much the same scene was repeated and each gathering 
line of Germans was laid low. 

Nevertheless, though the machine gun of the Yorkshire 
Light Infantry checked every attempt of the enemy to 
approach the Suffolks in force, it was possible for small 
parties of Germans to creep up into a cutting on the 
Cambrai road on their flank, and to enfilade them both 
with rifles and machine guns. Every attempt of these 
parties to build up a firing line in advance of the cutting 
was, however, foiled by the steady marksmanship of the 
Suffolks and by the shells of the 52nd Battery. The 
left company of this battalion had besides a very fair 
field of fire over the ground to the north-east, and forbade 
any hostile progress in that quarter. But the German 
machine guns could be neither discovered nor silenced ; 
and the Suffolks, except on their extreme left, which was 
protected by an artificial bank, were falling fast under 
their fire. Colonel James of the Manchesters had already 
pushed forward one company and a machine gun to the 
right rear of the Suffolks, prolonging their line to the 
south ; and, shortly after 11 A.M., judging the position 
to be critical, and being unable to find the brigadier, he 
ordered two more companies of his battalion to advance 
and reinforce the Suffolks. At the same time, he called 
upon the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and 1 /Middle- 
sex, of the 19th Infantry Brigade, to support him. 

The two companies of the Manchesters accordingly 
moved forward under a terrible fire of artillery, rifles and 
machine guns, but, in spite of more than one check, suc- 
ceeded in reaching the trenches of the Suffolks. The left 


company seems to have suffered less than the other, and 
on reaching the left company of the Suffolks found that 
it was not needed. The remainder, who bore more to 
the right, were thrown back more than once ; and eventu- 
ally only a portion reached the right centre of the firing 
line. Ammunition for the Suffolks' machine guns began 
to fail at this point ; and it was vital to replenish it before 
the enemy could further develop his attack from the east. 
Major Doughty, who had succeeded to the command of 
the battalion upon the fall of Colonel Brett early in the 
day, with a small party managed to bring up a few 
bandoliers, but he fell desperately wounded at the moment 
of his arrival. Meanwhile, two half - companies of the 
Highlanders from the low ground, facing once again a 
storm of fire, rushed through the wreck of the llth Battery 
into the right section of the trenches of the Suffolks and, 
though at heavy loss, brought them at least some assistance. 
It was now noon. Two German heavy guns 1 now reached 
the summit of the Montay Spur and opened fire at close 
range. The last gun of the llth Battery was silenced ; 
and the Suffolks, together with their reinforcement of 
Highlanders, were in a worse plight than ever. Neverthe- 
less, after nearly six hours of incessant and overwhelming 
fire, the right of the British line, which rested on Le Cateau, 
still stood firm. The German infantry was steadily 
increasing in numbers on their front and, despite all efforts, 
was drawing steadily nearer. Their right flank was open ; 
they were searched with fire from front and right and left ; 
and strong columns, betokening the approach of the 
German III. Corps, were closing in upon the right flank. 
It mattered not : they had been ordered to stand. The 
I. Corps, for whose coming they waited, might be late, 
as Bliicher had been at Waterloo ; but, until it should 
come, there must be no giving way. Nor did they yield 
the ground until the divisional orders for retirement 
reached them some hours later. 

The Eight Centre of the Line. 

Map 11. On the left of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, the 
2/Scottish Borderers (13th Infantry Brigade) and the 
Bedfords and Dorsets (15th Infantry Brigade) were for 
the present hardly engaged. They saw nothing of the 

1 Probably 4-2-inch field howitzers with telescope trails, enabling them 
to be used for direct fire. 


enemy but distant columns advancing upon Inchy from 26 Aug. 
the north-east, which were observed to be caught by 1914 
shell fire and forced to deploy. With the 9th Infantry 
Brigade, on the left again, the situation was nearly similar. 
The German guns l opened upon it soon after 6 A.M. 
before the men had completed the trenches begun over- 
night, but with so little effect that they were able to con- 
tinue digging themselves in and, thus sheltered, suffered 
trifling loss. There was no sign of any infantry attack 
no rifle fire, indeed, except that of a few skirmishers with 
here and there a machine gun and it was pretty evident 
that the enemy had no idea for the present of any attack 
upon this portion of the line. On the other hand, German 
troops, 2 working up the valley from Bethencourt and from 
the wood just to the east of it towards Inchy, were heavily 
shelled by the guns of the 6th Battery and of the XXIII. 
Brigade R.F.A. Some small parties, nevertheless, con- 
trived to make their way into Beaumont and Inchy, only 
to be greeted there by the lyddite shells of the 65th 
Howitzer Battery ; and all their efforts to build up a 
firing line in front of the twin villages were foiled by the 
deadly marksmanship of the British. 

Against the line of the 8th Infantry Brigade around 
Audencourt the German guns came into action rather later 
than against the 9th Infantry Brigade, but the German 
infantry showed itself almost immediately afterwards, 
trickling down in thin lines towards the Cambrai. road, 
with its machine guns clearly visible. Its advance was, 
however, cautious, for three British platoons which had 
been pushed out to the north of the Cambrai road were 
able to rejoin the brigade without being seriously pressed ; 
and it was not until about 9 A.M. that first the 4/Middlesex 
to the east of Audencourt, and later the machine guns of 
the Royal Scots, in the country road just to the north of 
it, opened fire upon parties of Germans who had crossed 
the Cambrai road. Even then the engagement in this 
quarter throughout the forenoon was no more than desul- 
tory. The headquarters of the brigade and the whole of 
its transport were in Audencourt itself, and there seemed 
no immediate menace to their security. Masses of German 
infantry were indeed assembling upon the Cambrai road 
under a devastating fire from the British artillery ; but 
the 8th and 9th Infantry Brigades had a good field of fire, 

1 Probably of the IV. Corps from near Solesmes. 
2 The 4th Cavalry Division ('' Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 63). 


and there was little temptation to the enemy to waste 
strength in attacking them, when immediately to their 
left lay Caudry, forming a decided salient in the British 

Upon Caudry the German shells fell very heavily from 
an early hour ; and bullets were whistling down the streets 
even before the fall of the shells. Up to 6 A.M. and even 
later the units of the 7th Infantry Brigade were still under 
the impression that the retreat would be resumed ; but 
the enemy's movements soon banished all idea of this, for 
about 7 A.M. the German riflemen J moved against both 
flanks of the village with vigour, pouring a very heavy fire 
in particular upon the Worcesters on the left. So per- 
tinacious was its onset that reinforcements were sum- 
moned from the 8th Infantry Brigade ; and about 8.30 
A.M. two weak companies of the Royal Irish came up and 
took post in a railway cutting which skirts the eastern 
flank of the village. Half an hour later, at 9 A.M., the Irish 
Rifles and the 41st Battery ended their wanderings of the 
night by rejoining the brigade. 2 The battalion entrenched 
itself about a thousand yards south of Caudry near Tron- 
quoy, while the guns unlimbered to its right rear. Until 
noon the 7th Infantry Brigade contained the Germans 
without difficulty, and they gained little or no ground ; it 
seemed probable that here, as on the rest of the British 
centre, they were husbanding their strength until their 
main effort against both flanks of the British should pro- 
duce its effect. 

The Left Wing. 

Map 11. On the left wing in the 4th Division no orders had been 
issued for the retirement to be continued ; those sent out 
on the previous evening to occupy the Haucourt position 3 
still held good and were confirmed as soon as General 
Smith-Dorrien's message reached Divisional Headquarters 
at 5 A.M. But, as on the right, the general action opened 
with misfortune for the British. Until 6 A.M., or there- 
abouts, the rear guard of the llth Infantry Brigade on 
the right of the division continued exchanging shots with 
the enemy to the north of Beauvois, when it gradually 
withdrew, the 1 /Rifle Brigade coming in last of all and 

1 The 9th Cavalry Division and three Jdger battalions (" Deutsche 
Kavallerie," p. 59). 

2 See p. 128. 3 See p. 129. 


taking position in the hollow road which runs southward 26 Aug. 
from Beauvois to Ligny. A platoon of Jdger, which was 
imprudent enough to advance in pursuit through Fontaine 
au Pire, was annihilated by the accurate fire of a detach- 
ment of the 1 /Hampshire ; and after that the enemy made 
no further attempt to follow up the llth Infantry Brigade. 1 
Meanwhile, the 12th Infantry Brigade was resting on its 
position on the left of the llth covering Longsart and 
Esnes. French cavalry patrols, as has been told, had been 
understood to report the front to be clear ; and the 4th 
Division had no divisional cavalry or cyclists to verify 
the French observations. The King's Own were formed 
up preparatory to entrenching. Suddenly, shortly after 
6 A.M., two French troopers riding towards Cattenieres 
were seen to turn and gallop at the top of their speed to the 
south-west; and immediately afterwards a devastating 
fire of machine guns swept down upon the King's Own. 
Caught in close formation, the hapless battalion was 
terribly punished. The men were at once ordered to lie 
down and the front rank of each platoon all that could 
safely use their rifles opened fire at about eight hundred 
yards range upon the German machine guns with imme- 
diate effect. Five minutes later, however, two or three 
German batteries came into the open between Wambaix 
and Cattenieres Railway Station, unlimbered, and speedily 
picking up the range, poured upon the unlucky King's Own 
a storm of shells, which thinned their already depleted ranks 
still further. Two companies of the Warwickshire from 
the reserve, by direction of a staff officer, swarmed up the 
hill to extricate them, but were swept back upon reaching 
the crest with very heavy loss. For some twenty minutes 
this storm of shells burst over the King's Own, after which 
the fire of guns and machine guns slackened, and the sur- 
vivors of the battalion moved away to their right into the 
shelter of a country lane, running east and west, from 
which they opened fire with such effect that the machine 
guns were smothered. A few men from the rear of the 
mass, who had sought shelter in the ravine, rallied and 
rejoined their comrades ; and the King's Own, though 
reduced by some four hundred casualties, recovered them- 
selves with commendable quickness. 

The Germans then turned their fire upon portions of 
the right wing of the Lancashire Fusiliers, to the west of 

1 This enemy was the 2nd Cavalry Division, with two Jager battalions 
(" Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 55). 


the King's Own ; and soon German mounted men came 
out into the open, only to give place to a considerable body 
of infantry * in the space between Wambaix and Catte- 
nieres. The Lancashire Fusiliers brought their machine 
guns into action ; and, though one of these became jammed 
at once, the other did good execution. But the enemy, 
having far greater numbers of machine guns it was esti- 
mated that they had twenty-three in this quarter of the 
field alone at this time 2 and being consequently able to 
use them with greater freedom, now crept away to the left 
flank qf the Lancashire Fusiliers, and enfiladed them with 
deadly effect. Two companies of Inniskilling Fusiliers had 
already come up from Longsart to prolong the line of the 
Lancashire Fusiliers, one upon the eastern and the other 
upon the western flank ; but the latter was at once en- 
gaged with German dismounted cavalry. There were 
signs also of the development of a hostile attack upon the 
front and western flank of Esnes, where the two remaining 
companies of the Inniskilling Fusiliers were already dis- 
posed for defence. Against them, across a cornfield that 
had recently been cut, advanced the 7th Jager, in open 
order, apparently without any suspicion that a foe was 
near. As soon as the Inniskillings opened fire the Germans 
took cover behind the corn-stooks. But these availed 
them little, and after a time they ran back, leaving forty- 
seven dead in front of one of the companies when its com- 
mander in the lull that ensued went out to count them. 
Thus for at least an hour and a half the 12th Infantry 
Brigade held its own against the &nd Cavalry Division 
and two Jager battalions, backed by artillery and numerous 
machine guns. 

At length about 8.45 A.M. the German progress towards 
Wambaix, round the left flank of the advanced line, had 
gone so far that a retirement seemed to Brigadier-General 
H. M. Wilson imperative. The King's Own on the right 
were the first to be sent to the south side of the Warnelle 
Ravine ; and, to cover this movement, two companies of 
the Warwickshire (10th Infantry Brigade) were ordered to 
deliver a counter-attack from Haucourt upon the ridge 
to north of Longsart. The 1 /Hampshire, of the llth In- 
fantry Brigade, pushed forward two platoons to protect the 

1 Dismounted men of the 2nd Cavalry Division and Jager (" Deutsche 
Kavallerie," p. 56). 

2 Twenty-one, according to " Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 56 : the guns 
of the 4th M.G. Abteilung and two Jager battalions. 


Warwickshire's right flank, seeing which a German battery 20 Aug. 
moved up and unlimbered close to the railway station just 1914 - 
south of Cattenieres. The Hampshire men, after taking 
the range, opened rapid fire at a thousand and fifty yards, 
and within a minute the battery turned and galloped away 
to seek shelter. This little incident, though a triumph for 
British musketry, could not of course affect the main issue. 
The Warwickshire again reached the crest of the ridge, 
and so gained some little respite for the King's Own, but 
they suffered severely from the intense fire of artillery and 
machine guns and were forced to fall back. The Lanca- 
shire Fusiliers were the last to go not without difficulty, 
for the Germans were within three hundred yards of them ; 
they rallied on the ridge to the south. The company of 
the Essex on their left had retired a little earlier ; but that 
of the Inniskillings withdrew with the Lancashire Fusiliers, 
with the exception of the left platoon, which remained 
where it had fought, amid a circle of German dead, with 
not a single man unwounded. The withdrawal of the 
12th Infantry Brigade across the valley to the line Ligny 
Esnes was now practically accomplished. 

Meanwhile, the artillery of the 4th Division had come 
into action. At 5.30 A.M., immediately on the issue of 
the divisional operation orders sent out on receipt of 
General Smith-Dorrien's message, the C.R.A., Brigadier- 
General Milne, ordered his brigades to reconnoitre positions : 
the XXXVII. (Howitzer) and XXXII. Brigades R.F.A. to 
the east of the Iris stream, and the XIV. and XXIX. to the 
west of it ; and the two last at once to take up positions 
of readiness south-east of Esnes. Shortly afterwards, the 
Divisional Artillery came into action : the XXXII. and 
XXIX. Brigades being detailed to co-operate with the llth 
Infantry Brigade, and the XIV. with the 12th Infantry 

In the XXXII., the 27th Battery unlimbered in the 
open to the west of Ligny, the 134th in a covered position 
immediately to the south-west of the village, with the 
135th, also under cover, to the left rear of the 27th. The 
brigade was brought into action as rapidly as possible, as 
the llth Infantry Brigade was asking for artillery support 
to divert from it some of the German gun fire to which it 
was being subjected. 

The XXIX. Brigade took up its position south-east of 
Haucourt. Of the XIV., the 68th Battery came into action 
at once just south-west of Haucourt, the 39th three-quarters 


of a mile in rear, with the 88th in the valley-head to the 
east of St. Aubert Farm. The XXXVII. (Howitzer) un- 
limbered in the Iris valley, but did not open fire from this 
position. The heavy battery, as already noted, was not 

The fire of the XIV. Brigade gained time for the 12th 
Infantry Brigade to rally ; and now the enemy came on, 
against the Lancashire Fusiliers, just as the British would 
have desired, in masses, firing from the hip. 1 A burst of 
rapid fire from a hastily formed line now speedily brought 
the German advance to a standstill, and the Lancashire 
Fusiliers took advantage of the lull to re-form on a better 
position a short distance in rear. The German artillery 
now redoubled its fire ; but between 9.30 and 10 A.M. the 
worst of the surprise attack was over, and Brigadier- 
General H. M. Wilson was able to reconstitute his line 
along a front from Ligny through Haucourt to Esnes, 
already occupied by part of the 10th Infantry Brigade. 
Brigadier - General Haldane, warned to secure the left 
flank of the division, withdrew the Seaforth Highlanders 
to a ridge south and somewhat east of Esnes ; and on 
this ridge the new position of the two brigades assumed 
the shape almost of a semicircle, with its convex side 
to the enemy. The units were very much mixed, and 
it is impossible to say precisely where some of them were 

By 11 A.M. the firing in this quarter of the field had died 
down. The German attack, delivered by a mixed force of 
cavalry, Jager, and possibly infantry, with a very powerful 
backing of artillery, had been repulsed. The 12th In- 
fantry Brigade had, indeed, been forced back to the south 
side of the Warnelle Ravine ; and had suffered heavy 
casualties, chiefly owing to the mishap to the King's Own. 
The cavalry and the cyclists of the 4th Division, had they 
been available, would undoubtedly have prevented this 
surprise. Even as things were, the division had succeeded 
in holding its own. Moreover, if the Germans hoped to 
pin it to its ground, they had failed ; for there was nothing 
now to prevent the 4th Division from continuing its retire- 
ment if it so desired. 

During this period the llth Infantry Brigade became 

isolated to a certain extent, owing to the retirement of 

the 12th Infantry Brigade on its left and, on its right, 

by the distance which separated it from the 7th Infantry 

1 These troops would appear to have been dismounted cavalry. 


Brigade ; but it held on with the greatest tenacity. Its 26 Aug. 
position, it may be recalled, was on the Caudry plateau 1914 
to the north of the Warnelle Ravine, astride the " Quarry " 
knoll and extending thence south-west across the railway 
to the edge of the plateau, its general front being towards 
the north-west. Before part of this front, notably on the 
northern slope of the " Quarry " knoll, there was a natural 
glacis, but further to the west the field of fire was bad. 
The enemy, of course, avoided the glacis, and preferred 
to work round both flanks of the brigade and attack along 
the line of the railway from the west and from the southern 
margin of Fontaine au Pire from the north-east. But 
though the Germans brought up battery after battery, 
until the line of their guns extended from Wambaix to 
the north of Fontaine, 1 and swept the plateau with them 
and with machine guns, the bombardment was not fol- 
lowed by the advance of infantry in large bodies. After 
a time the East Lancashire were compelled to retire 
from the northern slope of the " Quarry " to a sunken 
road upon the southern slope, and there they remained. 
The Rifle Brigade and two companies of the Somerset 
Light Infantry, on the right of the East Lancashire, also 
held their ground, though heavily shelled. They were 
rewarded occasionally by the sight of German infantry 
striving to advance over the stubble, and seized every 
opportunity of cutting them down by rapid fire. 

More than once small parties of the llth Infantry 
Brigade were forced out of the more exposed positions 
by the rain of shrapnel ; but they always reoccupied 
them, or were replaced by supports from the Warnelle 
Ravine. Once the Hampshire, on the left of the line, 
essayed a counter-attack, but it proved too costly. The 
Germans at this point were too wise to quit their shelter ; 
they had an overwhelming force of artillery ; they had 
brought forward their machine guns with their wonted 
skill ; and they might reasonably reckon that the llth 
Infantry Brigade would soon retire and abandon the 
position without bitter fighting, or, better still, cling to it 
too long, and be surrounded. Here, therefore, as on the 
remainder of the left wing, there was a deadlock. 

So far General Smith -Dorrien had everywhere held 
his ground successfully for some six hours ; and, except 

1 The artillery of the IV. Reserve Corps was sent up ahead of its 
infantry and no doubt had come into action to assist the Cavalry Corps 


immediately to the west of Le Cateau, his line was not 
only unbroken but unshaken. Even there the enemy 
had not immediately pressed home the advantages which 
he had gained ; but the situation was rapidly grow- 
ing more serious. To that critical point we must now 



(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 3, 10 & 11) 

The Right of the Line. 

SHORTLY after noon the situation of the Suffolks and Sketch 3. 
of the batteries supporting them, on the right of the line, Ma P s 10 
became serious under the German enfilade fire. The 108th 
Heavy Battery, in action well behind the right flank, had 
silenced one troublesome group of guns near Croix ; but, 
despite this good piece of shooting, the hostile artillery 
still far outmatched the British. 1 Reserves there were 
none, except for the four battalions of the 19th Infantry 
Brigade ; and of these the Cameronians and Royal Welch 
Fusiliers, in view of the enemy's movement on Ligny, 
had at 10 A.M. been moved away westwards to Montigny, 
behind the left flank of the II. Corps ; a part of the Argyll 
and Sutherland Highlanders had already been thrown 
into the fight ; 2 and only the remainder of this battalion, 
together with the 1 /Middlesex, were available on the right. 
By the brigadier's orders, two half-companies of the 
Argylls, with the battalion machine guns, were now sent 
up into the lane that ran over the ridge to the right rear 
of the Suffolks ; and the 1 /Middlesex moved forward into 
position upon the right of the Highlanders. The only 
reassuring feature in the situation of the 5th Division was 
that the Germans were not pushing their way up the 
valley of the Selle past the right flank of the 14th Infantry 
Brigade with the rapidity and vigour that might have 

1 Apparently the greater part of the artillery of the German 5th, 6th 
and 7th Divisions was in action against the 5th Division. 

2 See p. 150. 

VOL. I 161 M 


been expected. Whether the German ///. Corps had 
been slow in following its advanced troops, or, as it came 
upon the field, had been diverted from Le Cateau west- 
ward, in support of the frontal attack on the 14th and 
13th Infantry Brigades, was unknown. 1 In any case, the 
detachment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 
seeing no German troops in the valley, turned its machine 
guns at long range on to the ridge east of Le Cateau. This 
drew the fire of the German artillery, which put both the 
machine guns out of action. But, at the moment, the 
danger lay not in the east but in the north. About noon, 
General Smith-Dorrien visited the 5th Divisional Head- 
quarters again, and discussed with Sir Charles Fergusson 
the question of holding on or retiring. As the Germans 
were so near, it was thought that a counter-attack would 
be necessary to disengage, and the decision to retire was, 
temporarily, postponed. 

Shortly before 1 P.M., Sir Charles Fergusson from his 
lookout in Reumont village could see that the right of 
his division was shaken and might shortly give way, and 
he reported in that sense to Corps Headquarters. A 
little later he added that a German division 2 was 
working round his right towards Bazuel. Finally at 
1.20 P.M. he suggested that unless material assistance 
could be sent to him he had better begin retiring. It 
seems to have been about this time that, during a lull 
in the German fire, the teams of the llth Battery came 
up to the guns, and got five of them away, the team of 
the sixth being shot down. The teams of the 80th and 
37th Batteries also came forward, and brought away five 
of the guns and four of the howitzers ; another howitzer 
as will be seen was recovered later on. But these three 
batteries were saved only at the cost of the teams of the 
52nd, of which the guns had consequently to be abandoned. 
The gunners of this battery were ordered to retire, but a 
few remained and managed to keep one gun in action. 
Somewhat later, the teams of the 122nd Battery galloped 
up through the line of the West Kents, in brigade reserve, 
who stood up and cheered them loudly as they dashed be- 
tween their trenches and onward down the slope towards 
their guns. As they came within view of the enemy, they 
were struck by a hurricane of shrapnel and of bullets from 
the machine guns in the Cambrai road ; but still they went 

1 For what happened to the German III. Corps, see p. 185 
2 The 5th Division of the ///. Corps. 


on. The officer in charge of the teams was killed, one team 26 Aug. 
shot down in a heap before the position was reached, but 1914 - 
two guns of the 122nd Battery were carried out without 
mishap. A third was limbered up, but the horses went 
down instantly. It was an extraordinary sight : a short 
wild scene of galloping and falling horses, and then four 
guns standing derelict, a few limbers lying about, one on 
the skyline with its pole vertical, and dead men and 
dead horses everywhere. It was then decided to abandon 
the remainder, as also the guns of the 121st and 123rd 
Batteries, which were in an even more exposed position, 
the breech-blocks being first removed and the sights 
smashed. Altogether, twenty -five field guns and the 
howitzer were lost in this part of the field ; but, con- 
sidering that the batteries were practically in the firing 
line, it is astonishing that any were rescued ; and the feat 
redounds to the eternal honour of the officers and men 
of the 5th Divisional Artillery. 

It was now about 2 P.M. At 1.40 P.M., in response to 
the 1.20 P.M. message, General Smith-Dorrien had placed 
his two remaining battalions, the Cameronians and the 
Royal Welch Fusiliers, at Sir Charles Fergusson's disposal, 
ordering them to move from Montigny to Bertry, and 
asked him to hold his ground at any rate a little longer 
so as to allow the preliminary movements of the retire- 
ment to take effect, but to begin the withdrawal of the 
5th Division as soon as he should think fit ; after which 
the 3rd and 4th Divisions were to follow in succession. 
Roads had previously been allotted for the retirement 
to the north-west of St. Quentin, when it should take place, 
as follows : 

To the 5th Division and 19th Infantry Brigade, two roads : Map 3. 

(1) via Bertry Maretz, and thence the Roman Road 

to Vermand ; 

(2) via Reumont Maurois Busigny Bohain Bran- 

court Joncourt Bellenglise. 

To the 3rd Division, that via Montigny Clary Elincourt 
Malincourt (east of the Church) Beaurevoir Gouy Bony 
Hargicourt Jeancourt. 

To the 4th Division, that via Selvigny Malincourt (west 
of the Church) Aubencheul Ronssoy Templeux Roisel. 

To the Cavalry, any roads west of the 4th Division. 

The pressure upon the British line immediately west Map 11, 
of Le Cateau now became severe, and it seemed clear that 
the Germans were preparing for a great effort. Before 


the teams of the 122nd Battery advanced, three platoons 
of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had twice 
made gallant attempts to reach the trenches of the 
Suffolks, but had been beaten back with severe loss 
by artillery and machine-gun fire. They rallied under 
the protection of the 59th Field Company R.E., which 

fave up its trenches to them and lay down in the open, 
o intense, in fact, was the machine-gun fire upon the 
whole ridge to the rear of the Suffolks that the Highlanders 
had to abandon the line of the road which they had taken 
up, and move further down the slope towards the valley 
of the Selle. Meanwhile, the German battalions were 
steadily gaining ground ; in fact, as the last gun team of 
the 5th Divisional Artillery was driving off, as described 
two paragraphs above, they were only four hundred yards 
from it, and were only kept back for a time by a party of 
the Manchesters, which, with the machine-gun detach- 
ment, offered so stout a resistance as to gain a few minutes' 
respite. During this brief interval, Captain Reynolds of 
the 37th Battery, having obtained permission to call for 
volunteers, came galloping down with teams to rescue 
the two howitzers which had been left on the ground. 
The German infantry was then within two hundred yards, 
yet by the gallantry and devotion of this little party 
both howitzers were limbered up ; and though one team 
was shot down before it could move, the other galloped 
off with its howitzer and brought it safely away. 

This episode, which gained the Victoria Cross for 
Captain Reynolds and for Drivers Luke and Drain, was 
the last gleam of light upon this gloomy corner of the 
field. 1 Between 2.30 and 2.45 P.M. the end came. The 
Germans had by this time accumulated an overwhelming 
force in the shelter of the Cambrai road, and they now 
fell upon the Suffolks from the front, right flank and 
right rear. The turning movement, however, did not at 
once make itself felt, and the Suffolks and Argylls opened 
rapid fire to their front with terrific effect, two officers of 
the Highlanders, in particular, bringing down man after 
man and counting their scores aloud as if at a competition. 
The Germans kept sounding the British " Cease fire " 
and gesticulating to persuade the men to surrender, but 
in vain. At length a rush of the enemy from the rear 
bore down all resistance ; and the Suffolks and their 
Highland comrades were overwhelmed. They had for 
1 Captain Reynolds was killed by gas near Ypres, 1916. 


nine hours been under an incessant bombardment which 26 Aug. 
had pitted the whole of the ground with craters, and 1914 - 
they had fought to the very last, covering themselves 
with undying glory. 

Meanwhile orders had been issued about 2 P.M. 1 by 
Sir Charles Fergusson for the retirement of the 5th Division 
to begin, but these do not appear to have reached any 
battalion much before 3 P.M. It was comparatively easy 
to communicate with brigades, but nearly impossible to 
get messages to the firing line, as the fighting there was 
literally hand-to-hand, and the ground in rear was swept 
by shell fire. Further, the 14th Infantry Brigade was 
handicapped by the loss of its Signal Section, which had 
been practically destroyed in the early morning fighting 
in Le Cateau. As a result no orders at all reached Lieut. - 
Colonel Bond and the companies of the Yorkshire Light 
Infantry in the firing line. The survivors of the Man- 
chesters (14th) and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 
(19th) drifted back towards Reumont; and meanwhile the 
right of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, which faced east- 
wards, was heavily engaged with German infantry advancing 
over the ridge which the Suffolks had held. First two 
battalions in dense masses swept over the crest and down 
the beetroot-field on its western slopes. The K.O. Y.L.I. 
five platoons with two machine guns allowed them to 
move well down the slope and then opened rapid fire, 
which drove the enemy back with heavy loss to the reverse 
side of the ridge. Meanwhile, the Duke of Wellington's 
and West Rents (13th Infantry Brigade) had begun to 
retire from the left rear of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, as 
did also the East Surreys, conforming to the movement 
of the West Kents ; whilst the Scottish Borderers (13th) 
on the other flank of the brigade were also beginning to 
fall back. When, therefore, shortly after their first 
advance, the Germans reappeared on the crest of the 
ridge, they could outflank the right of the Yorkshire Light 
Infantry. This they proceeded to do, progressing slowly 
and warily, after the lesson that they had received, and 
throwing out troops wide to the south-east so as com- 
pletely to envelop the K.O.Y.L.I.'s right rear. The five 
platoons and the machine guns once again found a good 
target at five hundred yards' range and took full ad- 
vantage of it ; but the Germans now pressed home their 

1 No records or messages of this period are available as the 5th Divi- 
sional Headquarters' wagon was hit and blown up in Reumont. 


attack on the main front of the battalion from the Cambrai 
road, and on its left flank from the ground vacated by 
the Scottish Borderers. Although the left, by sheer 
marksmanship, was able to prevent the enemy from plant- 
ing machine guns on the last-named point, it could not 
prevent its occupation by increasing numbers of the enemy 
who at once opened a destructive enfilade fire. A desperate 
effort was made to reinforce this flank, but nearly every 
man sent forward was shot down ; and the enemy now 
set himself systematically to roll up the attenuated line 
of the Yorkshiremen from left to right. In spite of 
the gallant efforts of Major Yate, 1 who commanded the 
firing line, the end came soon afterwards; the company 
with him had lost over sixty men killed outright and 
many wounded, and the other companies had suffered 
equally ; and when about 3.30 P.M. the final rush of the 
enemy took place, the survivors were overpowered and 
made prisoners. That night the 2/K.O. Y.L.I, mustered 
only 8 officers and 320 rank and file, but it had held up 
the Germans at the only point where they penetrated into 
the British position, and thus gave the rest of the 5th 
Division a clear start of the enemy in their retirement. 

Whilst the advance of the enemy through the gap 
immediately to the west of Le Cateau had been thus 
delayed by a single battalion, the progress of his out- 
flanking movement to the east of the town was also 
checked. Two half-companies of the Argyll and Sutherland 
Highlanders, it will be remembered, had moved down 
the western slope of the valley of the Selle ; here the 
59th Field Company Royal Engineers had joined them ; 
and in the course of time, half the 1 /Middlesex, with two 
companies of the 1 /Scots Fusiliers (from the reserve of 
the 9th Infantry Brigade) prolonged the line to the right. 
Towards 3 P.M. German troops 2 were seen advancing west- 
wards over the spur on the eastern side of the valley ; 
whereupon the Highlanders and the machine guns of the 
Middlesex opened fire at twelve hundred yards' range, 
and effectually turned them back. Thus the Germans 
were held for a time both to the east and west of 
Le Cateau ; and General Smith-Dorrien's dispositions, 
now in progress, to cover the retreat on this side had 

1 Major Yate was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. He was 
found with his skull smashed in by persons unknown during an attempt 
to escape from Germany. 

2 III. Corps. 


ample time to take effect. The long valley that runs up 26 Aug. 
fj-om Le Cateau southwards to Honnechy had been since 1914> 
9 A.M. under the observation of the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
and E Battery, posted between Escaufourt and Honnechy, 
these troops having retired to that position, where they 
found L Battery in action, at the close of their first engage- 
ment with the enemy about Bazuel. At 1.15 P.M. the Corn- 
wall Light Infantry, and the two companies of the East 
Surreys that were with them, were ordered from the reserve 
of the 5th Division l to Honnechy ; about 2 P.M. the 2/Royal 
Welch Fusiliers and I/Scottish Rifles of the 19th Infantry 
Brigade, Sir Horace's only corps reserve, now at the 
disposal of the 5th Division, were directed to march from 
Bertry, and to post themselves on the left of the Duke of 
Cornwall's at Maurois ; and the 1 /Norfolk were sent back 
from the " Tree " on the Sunken Road to Reumont. 
Lastly, a section of the 108th Heavy Battery was ordered 
to take up a position near Honnechy ; and, though one 
gun was unfortunately upset in a ditch and had to be 
abandoned, the other safely reached the place assigned to 
it. By 3 P.M., or very little later, the whole of these 
troops were in position behind the right flank ; and it 
only remained to be seen how vigorously the enemy would 
follow up his success. At 3.47 P.M. the II. Corps reported 
to G.H.Q. by a telegram, received at 3.50 P.M., that the 
retirement had begun. 

Towards 3.30 P.M. the Germans 2 again showed them- 
selves on the eastern side of the Selle, this time in extended 
order, so that the rifles and machine guns of the party of 
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had not the same 
chance against them as before. But, as they advanced, 
they were met by the shells of E and L Batteries, and, 
after working their way south for a time, took shelter 
under cover of the railway embankment, and there came 
to a temporary standstill. The 1 /Middlesex on the High- 
landers' right now withdrew up the valley of the Selle 
towards Reumont ; and the latter, being warned that the 
Germans were crossing the Roman Road in their left rear, 
fell back to the spur which runs south-west from Reumont, 
where they found a mixed body of Manchesters and other 
units deployed, and took up position alongside them. The 
Germans had by this time about 4.30 P.M. brought up 
guns to engage the British batteries near Escaufourt and 
were again advancing up the valley of the Selle ; but their 

1 See p. 147 et seq. 2 III. Corps. 


losses were heavy and their progress slow. An aeroplane 
detected the position of E and L Batteries, but the German 
fire does not appear to have done any great damage. There 
was no sign of German cavalry hurrying forward in masses 
to the pursuit ; and there seemed to be a good prospect 
that darkness would fall before the enemy could close 
with the rear guards retiring from the valley of the Selle. 1 
Immediately to the west of Le Cateau in the 13th 
Infantry Brigade area, the enemy equally failed to press 
his advantage ; the shells of the 61st Howitzer Battery 
and 108th Heavy Battery constantly broke up the German 
infantry when it tried to reassemble and re-form. The 
2/Duke of Wellington's was certainly heavily shelled as 
it retired, but suffered little harm, though the battalion 
became widely scattered. The West Kents fell back slowly 
and methodically, and their rear guard saw nothing to 
shoot at except a German company which showed itself 
for a few minutes passing eastward through the abandoned 
guns of the XV. Brigade R.F.A. more than a thousand 
yards away. Between 4.30 and 5 P.M. this rear guard 
retired in extended order without molestation even by 
artillery. The Scottish Borderers withdrew in the same 
way, though the order to retire unfortunately did not 
reach the greater part of one company, which was sur- 
rounded and captured. Near the " Tree " on the Sunken 
Road at least one company halted for the best part of an 
hour, and fired with great effect upon German infantry 
nine hundred yards to its right. Between 4.15 and 5 P.M. 
the battalion fell back by successive companies to Trois- 
villes, and then turned to cover the retreat of the 15th 
Infantry Brigade which was falling back in perfect order. 
Thus on the right of the line, the most critical point of 
all, things had not gone altogether ill in the first and most 
difficult stage of the retreat. 


Map 11. Until a little past noon the Bedfords and Dorsets in 
the firing line of the 15th Infantry Brigade, on the left 
of the 5th Division, saw little or nothing of the enemy, 
except at a distance ; and even then they could perceive 
only small parties on the Cambrai road (which at this 

1 No orders for pursuit were issued by von Kluck until 8.13 P.M., 
and these directed the line Esnes Caudry Reumont to be crossed at 
4 A.M. next day. 


point offered no shelter to the enemy) attempting to 26 Aug 
bring machine guns into position. These were promptly 1914 
engaged and smothered by the fire of the Dorsets' machine 
guns before they could come into action. Later on the 
German infantry showed itself in front in greater force, 
but was so hotly received by the Bedfords and Dorsets, 
as well as by the batteries of the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. 
that it would not venture upon a definite attack. Soon 
after 3 P.M. the order to retire was received by the 15th 
Infantry Brigade, and it was calmly and systematically 
obeyed. The 119th Battery was withdrawn first, and 
moved back to the spur just south of the " Tree " on the 
Sunken Road. About 3.30 P.M. the Bedfords and Dorsets 
fell back slowly in succession covered by the machine 
guns of the latter, and, together with the 121st Battery, 
faced about again at the south-eastern angle of Troisvilles. 
No Germans had yet crossed the Cambrai road on their 
front, being checked by the rifle fire, at long range, of the 
right company of the Fifth Fusiliers (9th Infantry Brigade) ; 
but the enemy's artillery now concentrated a very heavy 
fire upon Troisvilles from the north and north-east, and, 
gradually finding the range, compelled this company, as 
well as the Scottish Borderers on its right, to retire once 
more. The 121st Battery was only limbered up with 
difficulty, but the Dorsets, well covered by their machine 
guns, got back to the southern end of Troisvilles with little 
loss. A German aeroplane now appeared over their heads, 
dropping smoke signals, and the German gunners guided 
by these put down a barrage of shrapnel on every road 
and track leading to the south. The Scottish Borderers, 
who had taken the road towards Reumont, were diverted 
from it to the open country further west. The Dorsets 
and the Bedfords broke into small parties and, passing 
through the barrage with little or no damage, headed south 
across country towards Maurois. Bedfords, Dorsets, Cheshire 
(15th Infantry Brigade reserve) and Scottish Borderers 
all entered the Roman Road near Reumont or Maurois 
without the slightest pressure of German cavalry or infantry 
upon their rear. Only on their right towards Le Cateau 
had the enemy been seen in any force ; and his advance 
there had been delayed as has already been described. 

The withdrawal of the 5th Division from a broad and 
scattered front on to a single road at right angles to it 
naturally brought as a consequence a thorough mix-up 
of all units except in the case of the 15th Infantry 


Brigade, which entered it as a formed body. This state 
of affairs the Staff, as will be later narrated, took steps 
to remedy as soon as possible ; but the enemy was too 
close for any immediate attempt at re-forming to be 
made. There was, to quote one eye-witness, " confusion, 
but no disorganization; disorder, but no panic"; while 
another has exactly caught the scene by saying that it 
reminded him of a crowd leaving a race meeting and 
making its way earnestly towards a railway station. 


Map 11. On the left of the 15th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd 
Division sector, the 9th was perfectly secure. The enemy 
had established himself on the southern edge of Inchy, 
but had been unable to advance a yard further ; and, 
though Brigadier-General Shaw's battalions had had 
little opportunity of using their rifles, the XXIII. Brigade 
R.F.A. had inflicted very severe loss on the German infantry. 
Soon after 3 P.M. the brigadier observed that the troops 
on his right were retreating ; and though it was plain that 
the Germans were not following them in any strength, he 
was relieved when orders reached him, at 3.30 P.M., to con- 
form with the movement. Pushing up the Royal Fusiliers 
from the reserve to the north-western edge of Troisvilles, 
he brought away nearly all his wounded, after which he 
withdrew in succession the Fifth Fusiliers and the Lincoln- 
shire with very trifling loss. The German skirmishers 
lining the southern edge of Inchy tried hard to hinder 
the movement, but were silenced by the advanced sections 
of the 107th and 108th Batteries. Although the Fifth 
Fusiliers, before they could reach the shelter of a hollow 
near Le Fayt, had to cross a thousand yards of open 
ground, the German artillery scarcely fired a round at 
them. As the last party of the Lincolnshire came abreast 
of the advanced section of the 108th Battery, the officer 
in command, having fired off his last round of ammunition, 
disabled and abandoned his guns. They and the other 
advanced section had done great work, but at the cost of 
four eighteen-pounders. The retreat was then continued 
methodically, without pressure from the enemy, and the 
battalions re-formed as soon as they reached sheltered 
ground. The XXIII. Brigade R.F.A. was collected at 
Bertry ; and the 9th Infantry Brigade took up a position 
on the ridge between Bertry and Montigny to cover the 


retreat of the rest of the 3rd Division ; its casualties 26 Aug. 
hardly amounted to one hundred and eighty. 1914 - 


The course of events west of the 9th Infantry Brigade Map 11. 
is less easy to describe. From noon onwards there was 
a lull in the German fire ; and advantage was taken of 
this to reinforce the troops at Caudry with half a company 
of the Irish Rifles. Some of the 12th Infantry Brigade 
likewise seized the opportunity to recross to the north 
side of the Warnelle Ravine in order to bring in their 
wounded, but they were driven back by a steady fire from 
the enemy before they could collect many of them. Then 
about 1.40 P.M. the German guns opened fire once more 
with increased violence and in much greater numbers, 1 
concentrating in the first instance chiefly on Caudry, 
while simultaneously German infantry advanced against 
the junction of the Royal Scots and Gordon Highlanders 
immediately to the north of Audencourt. They failed 
however to gain any ground, being met by an accurate 
fire on their front and effectively enfiladed, at a range 
of six hundred yards, by the left company of the Gordons. 
At Caudry itself the enemy was more successful, for by 
2 P.M. the troops of the 7th Infantry Brigade were driven 
from the village by the bombardment, and German infantry 
was able to enter and occupy it. About the same time 
masses of German infantry 2 developed a strong attack 
from the north-west against the half-battalion of the 
Inniskilling Fusiliers which covered the western flank at 
Esnes. It was met by rapid rifle and machine-gun fire, 
supported shortly after by artillery. The answering 
German fire was wholly ineffective, and the Inniskillings 
were able to check this attack completely. Nevertheless, 
the situation was not reassuring, for it was clear' that 
fresh German infantry, the herald of another corps, had 
come up, and that, if it failed to break in on the north 
side of Esnes, it would work round to the left flank and 

Meanwhile, between 2.30 and 3 P.M. the 3/Worcester- 

1 Some guns of the German Jfih Reserve Corps had no doubt arrived 
(see footnote 2, p. 174). 

2 This was, no doubt, the advanced guard of the 7th Reserve Division, 
which got up at 2 P.M. (see footnote 1, p. 174). 


shire (7th Infantry Brigade) counter-attacked at Caudry, 
reoccupied the southern portion of the village and pushed 
advanced posts to the north and north-east. But the 
northern part of the village was not recovered, and the 
Germans had already made the llth Infantry Brigade 
sensible of their presence on its right flank. Brigadier- 
General Hunter- Weston, naturally assuming that Caudry 
had been finally lost, decided to withdraw the llth Infantry 
Brigade across the Warnelle Ravine to a position before 
Ligny. The guns of the 135th Battery were brought 
forward and entrenched in and round Ligny for close 
defence ; and then, the 1 /Rifle Brigade being left at the 
" Quarry " as rear guard, the remaining battalions of 
the brigade were shortly after 3 P.M. drawn off into the 
low ground of the Ravine under a perfect tempest of 
shrapnel. As they came into sight of the Germans again 
on the slope just below Ligny, the enemy redoubled his 
fire, inflicting considerable loss, and when at last the 
rear guard withdrew from the " Quarry," the German 
infantrymen 1 sprang up from their concealed positions 
and rushed forward in pursuit. Their ranks were instantly 
torn and mangled by the British guns ; but they speedily 
rallied and continued the advance regardless of losses, 
and, before the llth Infantry Brigade could be completely 
re-formed, they swarmed forward to the attack of Ligny. 
Met by shrapnel and rapid fire, they turned, unable to 
persist against the hail of bullets. But being reinforced, 
they advanced again, only to suffer still more heavily, 
for the British were now better prepared to receive them. 
They fell back again, too severely punished to find heart 
for a third attempt ; and the 4th Division was left in 
undisputed possession of Ligny. These actions hardly 
came to a complete end before 4 P.M. 

It was amid such turmoil on the extreme left of the 
line that shortly after 3 P.M. General Hubert Hamilton 
rode down to Colonel W. D. Bird, who was with his 
battalion of Irish Rifles at Troncquoy, and directed him 
to take command of the 7th Infantry Brigade, since 
Brigadier-General McCracken had been disabled by a shell, 
and to withdraw the troops from Caudry under cover of 
the Irish Rifles and two field batteries. Colonel Bird 
made his dispositions accordingly ; and by 4.30 P.M. his 
brigade was practically clear of the village. At that hour 

1 The 3rd, 9th and lOlh Jdger and 19!h Cavalry Brigade according to 
" Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 59, 60. 


the troops in Audencourt, on the east of Caudry, suddenly 26 Aug. 
fell back, both artillery and infantry. The 8th Infantry 
Brigade had received its instructions to retire about 3.30 
P.M., but there was difficulty and delay in communicating 
them to the various units, and it is certain that some of 
them received none at all. The 4/Middlesex and the Royal 
Scots, with the exception of a detached party of the latter on 
the immediate right of the Gordons, were withdrawn without 
much difficulty. The party above named, together with 
the bulk of the Gordons, and two companies of the Royal 
Irish, having no orders to move, remained in their positions. 
Three platoons of the Gordons, however, heard of the order 
to retire, and managed to get away, as also did the reserve 
companies of the Royal Irish. These last were obliged to 
fight hard to extricate themselves and the batteries of the 
XL. Brigade R.F.A. ; l but three guns of the 6th Battery 
were lost, the teams being shot down by a lucky salvo 
whilst in the act of withdrawing. Two platoons of 
the Royal Irish also were cut off from their main body, 
but contrived to make good their retreat independently. 
Meanwhile since 2.30 P.M. Audencourt had been furiously 
bombarded, and the vehicles and horses of the 8th Brigade 
Headquarters, and the whole of the brigade machine guns 
and transport were lost. The German infantry, however, 
made no attempt to advance. The 41st Battery, working 
with Colonel Bird, opened fire on the crest east of Caudry, 
as soon as our troops were clear of it ; but, so far as can be 
gathered, there was at the time not a single German upon 
this ground. Half an hour later, however, at 5 P.M. the 
German infantrymen did swarm forward, toiling painfully 
up a gentle slope through beetroots that reached to their 
knees. Whether they expected opposition or not is hard 
to say, but they were met by the rapid fire of the Gordon 
Highlanders and Royal Scots, who shot them down at a 
range of from four to six hundred yards with the greatest 
coolness. One subaltern of the Royal Scots reckoned that 
he hit thirty to forty of them himself. The Germans 
were unable to gain an inch of ground ; for the best part 
of an hour they swayed backwards and forwards in front 
of these few isolated groups, probably exaggerating their 
strength both in men and machine guns, but completely at 
a loss how to clear them out of the way. 

The rest of the 8th Infantry Brigade, having re-formed 

1 Their adversaries were two brigades of the 9th Cavalry Division and 
the whole of the 4ih (" Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 61, 62). 


in dead ground, took the road to Montigny, and Colonel 
Bird, after waiting for fully twenty minutes without seeing 
a sign either of retreating British or advancing Germans, 
led back the 7th Infantry Brigade soon after 5 P.M. by the 
same road, without the slightest interference on the part 
of the enemy. 


Map 3. Thus by 5 P.M., roughly speaking, the whole of the II. 
Corps had begun its retreat and its rear guards were all in 
position, and the moment had come for the 4th Division, 
which was on its left, to move ; and there was no time to 
lose. For, although the right of the division was for the 
moment secure after the double repulse of the German 
attack upon Ligny, masses of the IV. Reserve Corps 1 were 
now arriving from the direction of Cattenieres Wambaix. 

Map 11. The appearance of Sordet's Cavalry in the left rear of 
the 4th Division now provided a most opportune diversion. 
General Smith-Dorrien had naturally counted on this co- 
operation ; and General Sordet, having visited Sir John 
French at 9 A.M., was fully conversant with the situation. 
His corps on the night of the 24th/25th had bivouacked 
near Avesnes Dompierre, and on the 25th moved more 
than thirty miles across the line of march of the B.E.F. in 
order to reach its left flank. It arrived late at night in 
the neighbourhood of Walincourt, about ten miles west 
by south of Le Cateau, men and horses dog-tired and 
soaked with rain. Of its three divisions, the 5th halted 
for the night in and about Esnes, the 1st at Lesdain and 
the 3rd at Le Bosquet (3 miles south-west of Esnes). The 
corps moved out to the south of Cambrai on the morning 
of the 26th in observation of the ground on the left rear of 
the British and of the southern exits from Cambrai. 
Towards 4 P.M., when the moment for effective action 
seemed to have come, the corps found itself faced by 
German infantry 2 from the direction of Wambaix, and its 
batteries opened fire. These guns were heard by General 
Smith-Dorrien about 4.30 P.M. as he was moving south 

1 The 7th Reserve Division, see Hauptmann Wirth's " Von der Saale 
zur Aisne." He states that the advanced guard of the division reached 
the Cambrai highroad north of Cattenieres about 2 P.M., and that the 
guns had been sent on ahead and were already in action. He adds 
that the German " cavalry had been thrown on the defensive and several 
regiments were cowering under cover behind the houses." 

2 22nd Division of the IV. Reserve Corps, probably. 


from Bertry to his new headquarters at St. Quentin, and, 26 Aug. 
not knowing whether the sound came from French or 1914 - 
German artillery, he had a bad moment ; but, galloping 
up to the top of some high ground near Maretz, he was 
able to satisfy himself that it could be only from French 
75's. 1 Further, beyond the left of the French cavalry, it 
was known that troops of General d'Amade were in and 
about Cambrai. 2 All, therefore, seemed well, and the 
British left flank secure. 

1 The following further details are available as regards General Sordet's Map 3. 
Cavalry Corps : The 1st Cavalry Division billeted and bivouacked for 

the night of the 25th/26th around Esnes to Le Bosquet, with the 5th 
on its right and the 3rd on its left. The corps moved out early after a 
night spent in great discomfort in wet clothes. During the day the 
divisions manoeuvred and reconnoitred ; the 1st moving back to Villers 
Guislain, and then forward about 2 P.M. to within a short distance of 
Cambrai, where it engaged hostile infantry (//. Corps) coming out of the 
town, until 6.30 P.M., and then it retired with the 5th Cavalry Division 
(whose other movements are not known) via Gouzeaucourt. (From 
Extracts of War Diary of the llth Dragoon Brigade and Major Letard's 
" Trois Mois au Premier Corps de Cavalerie.") 

2 See Note at end of Chapter IX. 



(See Sketch 3 ; Maps 3, 4, 9, 11 & 13) 

The Right of the Line. 

Sketch 3. THE party of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (19th 
Map 11. infantry Brigade), 1 together with the 59th Field Co. R.E. 
and a collection of scattered men, last mentioned as being 
on the right, was deployed upon the spur that runs south- 
eastward from Reumont. The Royal Welch Fusiliers, 
Cameronians (both of the 19th Infantry Brigade, from 
Montigny), Norfolks (15th Infantry Brigade) and one sixty- 
pounder of the 108th Heavy Battery, were in rear of it, 
between Maurois and Honnechy. The Bays (1st Cavalry 
Brigade), with E and L Batteries, were at Escaufourt, 
E Battery being in action against the guns which were 
endeavouring to cover the advance of the German infantry 
of the III. Corps up the valley of the Selle. This infantry 
now crossed the Roman Road on the Highlanders' left 
front, advancing in open order with company columns in 
rear, and was engaged by the party at a thousand yards' 
range. The enemy made no great progress, for the party 
had plenty of ammunition, and there was no immediate 
reason why it should fall back. After a time, however 
about 5.30 P.M. Lieut. -Colonel Ward of the I/Middlesex 
(19th Infantry Brigade) led his own battalion (which had 
been halted east of Reumont in the valley of the Selle), 
and the various detachments on the spur near by, towards 
Reumont and the Roman Road, detailing the Highlanders 
to act as his rear guard. The whole, therefore, moved off 
in succession, skirting Reumont where German shells were 

1 See p. 167. 


now falling thickly ; the rear guard had no sooner quitted 26 Aug. 
its position than the German artillery searched the deserted 1914 - 
spur with a hail of shrapnel. A company and a half of 
the Norfolks, sheltered in a quarry to the south-west of 
Reumont, were now left as the troops nearest to the 
enemy ; and about this time the cavalry and horse artillery 
began to fall back slowly from Escaufourt towards Busigny 
(6 miles S.S.W. of Le Cateau), leaving the passage up 
the valley towards Honnechy open to the enemy. The 
Norfolks opened fire at a range of about 1,800 yards on 
the German infantry in extended order to the north-east, 
and in due time retired to the edge of Honnechy, passing 
as they went through a company of the Royal Welch 
Fusiliers, which had been deployed to take over rear guard 
from them. 

From this point the Norfolk companies had a clearer 
view of German columns, both of infantry and artillery, 
advancing on the road up the valley from Le Cateau, pre- 
ceded by lines of skirmishers. They engaged them at long 
range, and the solitary sixty-pounder of the 108th Heavy 
Battery, having no shrapnel left, opened fire with lyddite. 
Major G. H. Sanders commanding the 122nd Field Battery, 
having after a time followed his two remaining guns to 
Reumont, collected two ammunition wagons, and un- 
limbered south of the village and opened fire on the enemy 

The Germans had by this time advanced up the valley 
to the point where the road from Reumont to St. Souplet 
intersects that from Le Cateau to Busigny ; but there, to 
the great surprise of the Norfolks, they stopped and showed 
themselves no more. 1 

It was now fully 6 P.M. A drizzling rain had just set 
in, and the light was beginning to fail early. The enemy's 
pursuit seemed to die away. His guns did indeed shell the 
position of the Royal Welch Fusiliers ; but, instead of 
heavy masses of infantry, small parties of cavalry 'now 
hovered about their front, feeling their way forward and 
provoking constant little bursts of fire from the British 
rear guards, which in the meanwhile continued to fall 
back in succession as the Roman Road gradually became 
clear for them. The congestion on that road was con- 
siderable, for it was packed with infantry, guns, transport 

1 Von Kluck does not explain this, saying " the latter [///.] Corps, 
" ordered to march on Maretz, did not get further than Honnechy on the 
" 26th, so that the attempted enveloping movement failed." 



and ambulances of the 5th Division and the 19th Infantry 
Brigade in no fixed order, just as each unit had happened 
Map. 3. to strike the highway. There was some confusion, but the 
men marched on steadily and in silence. A few units 
the 1 /Middlesex and a number of scattered men under 
Lieut.-Colonel Moulton-Barrett of the Argyll and Suther- 
land Highlanders made their way by two parallel tracks, 
east of the Roman Road, to Busigny, where the 3rd 
Cavalry Brigade was in position to cover them, and thence 
turned westward into the Roman Road. At 7 P.M. or a 
little later, German cavalry patrols ran into parties of the 
llth and 19th Hussars north of Busigny ; and men of the 
former regiment were shelled while crossing the railway 
near Busigny station. The Duke of Cornwall's Light 
Infantry, the two companies of the East Surrey which 
were with them, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 
Cameronians, moved back steadily from position to posi- 
tion and arrived at Maretz, almost without firing a shot ; 
the Cameronians waited at Maretz until 9.30 P.M. without 
seeing a sign of the enemy. Hostile pursuit, worthy of 
the name, had ceased after 6 P.M. ; in fact contact was 
practically lost as darkness fell. The whole of the 5th 
Division and the 19th Infantry Brigade were now in 
retreat along the Roman Road; their right flank, which 
had been exposed all day, was no longer threatened. 


Map 11 The narrative left the 3rd Division in the following 
situation : two companies of the Royal Irish, some of the 
Royal Scots and the greater part of the Gordon High- 
landers were still occupying their original ground in front 
of Audencourt, having received no orders to retire, and 
were successfully arresting any German advance ; the 9th 
Infantry Brigade was in a covering position between 
Bertry and Montigny (2 miles south of Caudry) ; and the 
bulk of the 7th and 8th were in orderly retreat on Montigny. 

Map 3. These two latter formations passed through the 9th 
Infantry Brigade and marched away to Clary, making 
south-westwards for Beaurevoir (13 miles south-west of Le 
Cateau) by way of Elincourt and Malincourt. Not a 
German came forward, not even a cavalry patrol, to follow 
them ; and not a shell was fired at the 9th Infantry 
Brigade, which at 6 P.M. became the rear guard to the 3rd 
Division. Evidently the enemy was wholly occupied with 


the detachments not a thousand strong, all told which 26 Aug. 
had not retired from the original fighting line. At 6 P.M., 1914 - 
after an hour spent in vain and costly attempts to break 
through the Gordons, his fire died down, but began again 
twenty minutes later, as he tried to work round the right 
of the Royal Scots. This was however foiled by the 
oblique fire of the right company of the Gordons, across 
the front of the Royal Scots ; and at 6.45 P.M. the Germans 
once again concentrated a heavy bombardment upon 
Audencourt. As darkness came down the firing died 
away into occasional fitful bursts, but at 8.30 P.M. the 
German guns once more heaped shells upon the ruins of 
Audencourt, not a little to the wonder of the 3rd Division, 
who, from the heights south of Clary some six miles away, 
watched the projectiles bursting over its deserted position 
with grim satisfaction. Thus the British centre had been 
withdrawn, from under the very eyes of the Germans, 
with very little difficulty and no serious loss. 


About 5 P.M. the infantry brigadiers of the 4th Division Map 11. 
received their orders to retreat, the 10th Infantry Brigade 
being detailed as rear guard. At that hour the German 
infantry to the immediate front of the line was still 
quiescent from the effects of its repulse before Ligny ; 
but the volume of hostile artillery fire had continued 
steadily to increase, and the turning movement round 
the western flank of Esnes had been renewed and pressed 
until the Inniskillings had been forced back to the western 
fringe of the village. The units of the 10th and 12th 
Infantry Brigades were so mixed that the transmission 
of orders was exceedingly difficult ; but the sound of 
General Sordet's guns about Crevecoeur (2J miles west 
of Esnes) gave assurance that the division could retire 
without fear of serious attack on its western flank. The 
Seaforth Highlanders, already in position behind this flank, 
between Guillemin and St. Aubert Farm, had been joined 
in the course of the afternoon by some platoons of the 
Irish Fusiliers, and these, with the 4th Cavalry Brigade 
further east near Selvigny, were thus ready to cover the 
first stage of the retreat. Artillery support was also 
close at hand, for, meantime, Brigadier-General Milne, 
having had early warning of the intention to break off the 
action, had made general arrangements for the retirement 


of the artillery to a succession of covering positions. 
After the heavy attack on Haucourt about 2 P.M. the 
XXIX. Brigade R.F.A. had retired to a position in the 
Iris valley between Caullery and Selvigny (2 miles S.S.W. 
of Ligny), and the XIV. Brigade had moved back about 
the same time to another one immediately north of Sel- 
vigny. About 4 P.M. the 35th (Howitzer) Battery had been 
ordered back behind the railway, so as to be prepared 
to cover the retirement of the remainder of its brigade, 
which was ready to do the same for the XXXII. Brigade, 
still south-west of Ligny. At 4.30 P.M. orders were given 
for the Brigade Ammunition Columns to get clear and 
join the route of the main column at Walincourt (3 miles 
S.S.W. of Ligny). About 5 P.M. the 31st and 55th 
(Howitzer) Batteries were withdrawn to the south of 
Selvigny, where the 35th Battery joined them. 

It is difficult to ascertain which of the infantry were 
the first to be withdrawn ; but it seems that part of the 
12th Infantry Brigade, the Essex and the two forward 
companies of the Inniskillings, moved off soon after 5 P.M., 
halting and facing about on the road between Selvigny 
and Guillemin. The Lancashire Fusiliers, half of the 
Dublin Fusiliers (10th Infantry Brigade), and part of the 
King's Own appear to have started rather later, though 
half of the King's Own, receiving no warning to retire, 
remained in position at Haucourt. The rest of the Innis- 
killings slipped away in small parties from Esnes, just as 
the enemy penetrated to the western houses of the village, 
and retreated upon Walincourt in good order. The enemy 
smothered the road with shrapnel, but the British columns 
moved on either side of it and escaped all damage. 

The llth Infantry Brigade and the remainder of the 
12th, much scattered, held their positions until 6 P.M. or 
even later. The 135th Battery (XXXII. Brigade R.F.A.), 
which was in close support of the infantry near Ligny, 
was so exposed that its withdrawal seemed impossible, 
and orders were actually issued that the guns should be 
abandoned, but the battery commander, Major Liveing, 1 
decided to try and save his guns and, withdrawing them 
and their wagons by hand, brought all of them (except 
one wagon) safely away. To the west of Ligny the posi- 
tion of the 27th Battery (XXXII. Brigade R.F.A.) was 
even worse ; nevertheless, the gunners, taking advantage 
of every lull, succeeded in running back four guns and 
1 He was awarded the D.S.O. 


limbers to the sunken road in rear, when increase in the 26 Aug. 
German artillery fire compelled them to abandon the re- 1914 - 
maining two. The battery then formed up and awaited 
its opportunity ; it eventually made a dash to the south- 
west, and, though it was pursued by German shells, got its 
four guns safely away. 1 

Of the llth Infantry Brigade, Lieut.-Colonel Swayne 
of the Somerset Light Infantry brought away with 
him what survived of two companies ; the rest of the 
battalion under Major Prowse having become separated 
from him remained fighting at Ligny until a late hour. 
The East Lancashire withdrew in three distinct bodies, 
two of which united at Clary. The main body of the 
I/Rifle Brigade made its way to Selvigny and took up a 
covering position there, whilst another party, with scattered 
men of other regiments, came later to the same village with 
the brigadier. Last of all the Hampshire retired, about 
7 P.M., and overtook the rest of the brigade on its way to 
Serain (4 miles south of Selvigny), where it passed the 
night. Of the 10th Infantry Brigade, only the Seaforth 
Highlanders and the greater part of the Irish Fusiliers 
were under their brigadier's hand. Half of the Warwick- 
shire and a good number of the Dublin Fusiliers were still in 
Haucourt, and the remainder were dispersed in various direc- 
tions, some as escort to guns, others in small isolated bodies. 

As with the rest of Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien's force, 
the enemy not only did not pursue the 4th Division, but 
did very little even to embarrass the retreat. The 1 /Rifle 
Brigade, the rear guard of the llth Infantry Brigade, 
and the mixed party with it, finding the roads blocked 
in every direction, bivouacked at Selvigny, within two 
miles of the battlefield, and the Seaforths almost level 
with them on the east, at Hurtevent Farm. The Map 3. 
remainder were directed on through Walincourt, by way 
of Malincourt where a divisional column of march was 
made up with the artillery and Aubencheul, to Vendhuille 
(2 miles north-west of Le Catelet). Von Kluck's shells, 
as we have seen, followed the British as long as they were 
within sight and range, and caused a few casualties, though 
not many ; he also bombarded the evacuated positions 
with great fury until dark ; but his cavalry and infantry 
made no attempt to press on. In fact, the whole of 
Smith-Dorrien's troops had done what was thought to 

1 The battery commander, Major H. E. Vallentin, received the D.S.O., 
and two sergeants and five gunners, the D.C.M. 


be impossible. With both flanks more or less in the air, 
they had turned upon an enemy of at least twice their 
strength ; had struck him hard, and had withdrawn, except 
on the right front of the 5th Division, practically without 
interference, with neither flank enveloped, having suffered 
losses certainly severe, but, considering the circumstances, 
by no means extravagant. 1 The men looked upon them- 
selves as victors, some indeed doubted whether they had 
been in a serious action ; yet they had inflicted upon the 
enemy casualties which are believed to have been out of 
all proportion to their own ; and they had completely foiled 
the plan of the German commander. 


Maps 3, 9, Very little has been published in Germany about Le 
& n * Cateau, and there is no official account of the battle, as 
there is of Mons and Ypres. The fighting on the 26th 
August was at first almost concealed by being included 
in the so-called " battle of St. Quentin." There is no 
doubt that the enemy suffered very heavy losses, and 
for that reason has said little about it. 

In the official list of battles issued at the end of 1919, 
it is called " the battle of Solesmes Le Cateau (25th- 
27th August 1914)," and the troops present are given as 
///. Corps (5th and 6th Divisions), IV. Corps (7th and 
8th Divisions), IV. Reserve Corps (7th Reserve and 22nd 
Reserve Divisions) and //. Cavalry Corps (2nd, Jfli and 9th 
Cavalry Divisions), whilst the 3rd Division of the //. 
Corps is shown as engaged on the 26th at " Cambrai." 

The official bulletin, issued by the Supreme Command 
on the 28th August, runs as follows : 

" Defeat of the English at St. Quentin. The English 
" Army, 2 to which three French Territorial divisions 3 had 

1 The total losses, after the stragglers had come in, were 7,812 men 
and 38 guns, including one 60-pdr. abandoned (see note, p. 224). 
A large proportion of these losses fell on the 4th Division,, which had no 
Field Ambulances to remove the wounded. 

General von Zwehl stated in the Militdr Wochenblatt of the 30th 
September 1919 that the prisoners taken, which include wounded, were 
2,600 ; and this is confirmed by von Kluck. The surprise of the King's 
Own in the early morning and the capture of the 1 /Gordon Highlanders, 
about to be described, added a considerable portion to the total casualties, 
and might have been avoided. 

2 Only three out of five divisions were present at Le Cateau. 

3 Only one Territorial division the 84th was present. The 61st 
and 62nd Reserve Divisions were west of Cambrai, but not engaged 
(see p. 186). 


" attached themselves, has been completely defeated north 
" of St. Quentin, and is in full retreat through St. Quentin. 1 
" Several thousand prisoners, seven field batteries and a 
" heavy battery fell into our hands." 2 

The troops were told that 12,000 prisoners had been 
taken. 3 

As already noticed in the text, 4 von Kluck's operation 
orders for the 26th, issued at Haussy, three miles north of 
Solesmes, at 10.50 P.M. on the 25th, merely give instructions 
for a long march in pursuit, mainly in a direction in which 
there was not much to pursue. His summary of them runs : 

" The First Army., from parts of which severe marches are 
" demanded, will continue the pursuit of the beaten enemy. 

" The //. Corps [commencing on the west] will march via 
" Cambrai on Bapaume, west of the road Valenciennes Ven- 
" degies Villers en Cauchies Cattenieres, till it is abreast of 
" Graincourt [5 miles S.W. of Cambrai]. 

" The IV. Reserve Corps, starting early, via Vendegies 
" Villers en Cauchies to Cattenieres. 

" The IV. Corps from Solesmes and Landrecies, by two 
" routes : via Caudry, and via Montay Caullery Walincourt, 
" to Vendhuille ; the road Landrecies Le Cateau is allotted 
" to the ///. Corps. 

" The ///. Corps by the Landrecies Le Cateau road to 
" Maretz. 

" Orders will be issued at Solesmes at 11 A.M. 

" The IX. Corps will cover the flank march of the Army 
" against the west and south-west fronts of Maubeuge, and will 
" send any troops not required to follow the ///. Corps via 
" Berlaimont Maroilles to Landrecies." 

Although von Kluck has read Sir John French's despatch, 
from which he quotes at length, he is evidently even now 
labouring under considerable misapprehension as to the 
dispositions of the B.E.F. and its movements. It is best 
to quote his narrative : 

" In the early morning Marwitz's Cavalry Corps, via 
" Wambaix Beauvois Quievy, attacked the enemy, who 
" was withdrawing in a westerly (sic) direction, drove him 
" partly back towards the south, and held him fast until 
" the heads of the army corps came up." This account 
hardly corresponds with the long pause in the fighting and 

1 Only the 5th Division, part of the Cavalry, and some stragglers came 
through St. Quentin. 

2 See footnote 1, p. 182, for the correct figures. 

3 Bloem, p. 183. 4 See p. 129. 


Captain Wirth's story of finding the regiments of the 
Cavalry Corps cowering behind the shelter of houses. 1 

" The IV. Corps about 8 A.M. attacked strong British 
" forces at Caudry Troisvilles Reumont, and encoun- 
" tered stout resistance from the enemy, who was well- 
" established in his position. The IV. Reserve Corps was to 
" envelop the northern [sic] and the ///. Corps the southern 
" [sic] flank of the position. The former, however, struck 
" against the French at Cattenieres ; the ///. Corps, 
" moving on Maretz, did not get further than Honnechy 
" on the 26th. By evening the IV. Reserve Corps succeeded 
" in driving its opponents back in a southerly direction 
" whilst the IV. Corps overthrew the right wing of the 
" British. The //. Corps defeated stronger French forces 
" at Cambrai." 2 

Apparently von Kluck really thought that the B.E.F. 
was facing east, and that if the IV. Reserve Corps drove 
it southwards, i.e., off its line of retreat to Calais Boulogne, 
it would endeavour to get away to the west. This is 
confirmed by the fact that when the IV. Reserve Corps 
relieved Marwitz's Cavalry Corps, the latter moved west 
of Cambrai, and on the 27th marched down the Cambrai 
Bapaume road to intercept any movement of the B.E.F. 
westwards. The //. Corps also pushed on west-south- 
west of Cambrai on the 26th, and its Jfih Division reached 
Hermies, half-way to Bapaume, where it blocked any 
escape to the west. 

The narrative of the battle ends with the statement, 
which shows that von Kluck thought the British I. Corps 
and the 6th Division, still in England, were present. " The 
" whole British Expeditionary Corps, six divisions, a 
" cavalry division and several French Territorial divisions 
" opposed the First Army. ... If the English stand on 
" the 27th, the double envelopment may yet bring a great 
" success." 

Von Kluck reported to the Supreme Command that 
he had won a victory, and not over three divisions but 
nine, and thereby, it is claimed by German writers, helped 
to mislead von Moltke as to the real situation. 3 

Relying on the retreat of the British westward being 
intercepted by Marwitz's Cavalry and the //. Corps, 

1 See footnote 1, p. 174. 

2 This is hardly the case. See the action of the French 84th Territorial 
Division at Cambrai, p. 186. 

3 Tappen, p. 21. Kuhl, "Marne," p. 82. 


which was to march at 1 A.M., he gave the remainder of 
his force a night's rest. His operation orders, issued at 
8.13 P.M., directed the ///., IV., and IV. Reserve Corps 
" to cross the line roughly Esnes Caudry Reumont at 
" 4 A.M." This was the British battle front of the previous 
evening, and as the action was broken off by Sir H. Smith- 
Dorrien at 3.30 P.M. and all his three divisions were on the 
move by 5 P.M., they had nearly twelve hours' start of 
the enemy. Thus it was, the German cavalry having been 
given a wrong direction, that there was no pursuit. 

As there is no coherent account of the battle from the 
German side, the information available with regard to 
each of the German corps is given for reference in a note 
at the end of the chapter. 1 The action in reality took a 
totally different form to what von Kluck supposed. In 
general, the IV. Corps made the principal attack, with 
the //. Cavalry Corps on its right, frontally, not against 
a flank ; part of the III. Corps came up on the left of the 
IV., and in attempting envelopment was apparently badly 
mauled ; at any rate, it effected nothing. In the afternoon 
the IV. Reserve Corps came up and relieved the II. Cavalry 
Corps. On its right (west) the //. Corps attacked the 
French 84th Territorial Division in Cambrai. 

Apparently the German troops thought that the battle 
would be continued on the 27th, for Hauptmann Wirth, 
of the 7th Reserve Divisional Staff, expresses surprise that 
the advance of the IV. Reserve Corps met with no opposition 
on that day : " the British had left the battlefield during 
" the night, and had gone in such haste that we did not 
" succeed in catching them up again." 


The part played on the left of the British during the Maps 3 
battle of Le Cateau by three of General d'Amade's divisions & 10 - 
has been generally overlooked in English accounts. The 
full story of their operations has yet to be written, but 
sufficient is known to make it certain that they accounted 
for the absence of the German //. Corps. This corps 
had been ordered, on the evening of the 24th, to make 
a wide sweep to envelop the British left 2 and, on the 25th, 
as we have seen, 3 swung westwards through Denain, and 

1 See pp. 200-202. 2 Kluck, p. 53. 

3 See pp. 130-31. 


arrived at night with the heads of its columns about nine 
miles north of Cambrai and little more than that distance 
from the British left ; it was, in fact, eight miles nearer 
to it than the IV. Reserve Corps at Valenciennes, which 
attacked the British 4th Division about 2 P.M. on the 26th. 

The French 84th Territorial Division, which had been 
on the left of the British at Mons, retreated with them, 
and on the night of the 25th/26th, its rear guards were 
opposing the passage of the Sensee Canal by the western 
columns of the German //. Corps, at Bassin Rond and 
Pallencourt, just south of Bouchain and some six miles 
north of Cambrai. 

During the 26th August the division was gradually 
pushed back to Cambrai, and then westwards through 
the town. To quote the words of the only available 
account : l 

" The defence of Cambrai was organized along its north- 
" western front from the Pont d'Aire to Tilloy (both 1J 
" miles north of Cambrai). . . . The attack developed on 
" the morning of the 26th at Escadoeuvres (1J miles north- 
" east of Cambrai on the Solesmes road). The outpost 
" battalion of the 27th Territorial Regiment fell back to 
" the ' Pont Rouge ' and the railway ; the 25th Territorial 
" Regiment took up a position by the Schelde Canal bridge. 
" The final stand was made in the suburb Saint Olle (on 
" the western side of Cambrai), which the staff of the 
" 84th Territorial Division left at 12.30 P.M. Captain 
" Saglier, of the 27th, defended the barricade near the 
" church till about 2.15 P.M." 

The information with regard to the French 61st and 
62nd Reserve Divisions is less explicit. 2 These divisions 
were railed to the front from Paris, and, on the 26th 
August, detrained at Arras, twenty miles from Cambrai. 
General d' Amade, whose headquarters were in Arras, having 
received reports that columns of German troops were 
marching southwards through Orchies towards Bouchain, 
ordered the two Reserve divisions south-east towards 
Cambrai, part of them by train. They got as near as 
Marquion, 3 six miles from Cambrai, on the afternoon of 
the 26th, when they received a special order from General 
Joffre ordering them to Combles and Peronne with a view 

1 An article in " La Renaissance " of 25th November 1916, quoted by 
Colonel Bujac in his book " La Belgique envahie " (Fournier, Paris 1916). 

2 See Hanotaux, vol. 7, p. 298 ; and Palat, vol. 5, p. 134. 

3 Ouy-Venazobres, " Journal d'un officier de cavalerie," p. 23. 


to the formation of the Sixth Army. They therefore 26 Aug. 
turned westwards again, followed by the 84th Territorial 1914 - 
Division, which was later in action at Marquion with the 
14th Pomeranian Regiment (4th Division of //. Corps). 

Von Kluck's account claims * that the //. Corps drove 
back strong French hostile forces on the 26th. But for 
the presence of the three French Reserve and Territorial 
formations there seems no doubt that the //. Corps would 
have taken part at Le Cateau with both its divisions. 


There can be little doubt but that the comparative Maps 2 
ease with which the first stages of the retreat were ac- & n - 
complished was due to the tenacity of the units which, 
having received no order to retire, clung with all their 
strength to the positions they had been ordered to hold. 2 
The story of the Suffolks and the K.O.Y.L.I. has already 
,been related ; it now remains to tell that of the isolated 
detachments of the 3rd and 4th Divisions. Some time 
after dark, firing having ceased, it became known to Lieut.- 
Colonel Neish of the Gordons that an order had been 
shouted by two staff officers to different parts of the line 
for the 8th Infantry Brigade to retire, and that this order 
had reached every one except the bulk of his own regiment, 
the company of the Royal Scots which lay on its right 
and two companies of the Royal Irish on its left. At 7.45 
P.M. Brevet-Colonel William Gordon, V.C., of the Gordon 
Highlanders, being the senior officer in army rank, assumed 
command of the whole of these troops ; and at 9.20 P.M. 
Colonel Neish sent an officer and two men to Troisvilles 
to obtain orders, if possible, from the headquarters of 
the 3rd Division. This officer not returning within the 
allotted time of two hours he had fallen, as a matter of 
fact, into the hands of the enemy at Troisvilles Colonel 
Gordon assembled his force towards Caudry at midnight, 
and at 12.30 A.M. marched off, quite undisturbed, through 
Audencourt (2 miles N.N.W. of Bertry). All was quiet 
in the village, and at 1.30 A.M. the head of the column 
reached Montigny (1J miles west of Bertry). Here a 
light was seen in a cottage, and the occupants a man 
and a woman, who were presumed to be French reported 
that early in the morning the British troops had moved 

1 Kluck, p. 59. 2 See footnote, p. 190. 


on Bertry and Maurois. The man was ordered to guide 
the party through Montigny on to the road to Bertry, 
which he did ; and at 2 A.M. the head of the column 
reached the cross roads to the south-west of Bertry. 
Here three shots were fired, and after a few minutes' 
delay, during which the advanced guard endeavoured to 
ascertain the nationality of the post, there was a heavy 
outbreak of rifle fire. The men were extended, and 
answered it. Orders were then given for the column to 
move back along the road to Montigny. But in the dark- 
ness the road south-westward to Clary was taken instead, 
and the column came upon a field gun which was trained 
to fire down the highway. This gun was rushed and 
taken before it could be discharged, and a mounted German 
officer near it was pulled off his horse, but the rear of the 
column was now met by rifle fire from the south and 
south-west. Once again the men were extended and 
replied, but the fire from the front and rear showed them 
pretty clearly that they were trapped. The head of the 
column now made an effort to force its way into Bertry, 
and stormed a house on the outskirts of the village, in 
which were a number of German officers. The enemy, 
however, was by this time thoroughly alarmed. Firing 
began on all sides, and after fighting against hopeless odds 
for the best part of an hour longer, Colonel Gordon's party 
was overpowered. Its captors were the 66th and 72nd 
Infantry Regiments (IV. Corps) which had engaged the 
Suffolks and Yorkshire Light Infantry near Le Cateau. 
Of the Gordon Highlanders about five hundred were taken, 
but a few escaped, and a handful of them actually made 
their way through the German lines to Antwerp, whence 
they were sent back to England. The fortune of war 
was hard upon the 1 /Gordons. For the time, they practi- 
cally ceased to exist as a battalion, but by their gallant 
resistance to all German attacks between 5 P.M. and dark, 
they had rendered incalculable service to the 3rd Division 
and to the Army at large. 

Further to the west, isolated parties of many battalions 
were left behind by the 4th Division about Haucourt and 
Ligny. Two companies of the Dublin Fusiliers under 
Major Shewan, and two of the King's Own under Major 
Parker, holding fast to their trenches north and east of 
Haucourt, were attacked soon after nightfall, but suc- 
ceeded in beating the enemy off ; and a party of the 
Dublin Fusiliers, attracted by the sound of the firing, 


moved up in time to shoot down a number of the retreat- 26 Aug. 
ing Germans. Major Shewan, and Major Poole of the 1914 - 
Warwickshire, who had also been left behind on the east 
of Haucourt with three to four hundred men of his 
regiment, then consulted together as to what should be 
done, since the enemy had apparently moved round both 
of their flanks. Major Poole, being familiar with the 
ground, undertook to lead the party southward across 
country, and at 11 P.M. the march began. About the 
same time Major Parker and his party of the King's Own 
started southward independently, and succeeded in making 
good their retreat. Major Poole, steering for Selvigny, 
struck the village of Caullery. Here he was joined at dawn 
of the 27th by another platoon of the Dublin Fusiliers 
under Lieutenant Massy - Westropp, who had retired 
at dusk from his trenches in the road between Ligny 
and Haucourt and finding his retreat threatened by a 
party of Germans in a farm, had promptly attacked 
them, driven them away and gone on his way unmolested. 
These, together with his own party and some of the Irish 
Fusiliers who were with them, Major Poole later led on 
in the track of the 4th Division. The Dublin Fusiliers, 
however, lost touch of him in the darkness, and drifted into 
Ligny at 2 A.M. on the 27th, where they made a short halt 
to find food. The men dropped down on the road, and 
instantly fell asleep. After a time, the march was resumed 
southward upon Clary, but near the entrance to the village 
they were fired on from the east and, signalling to ascertain 
whether the aggressors were friend or foe (for in the dim 
light there was abundant room for error), were told to 
join them as quickly as possible. The column accordingly 
advanced, and was at once swept by machine-gun fire 
from front and flank. The men were deployed, and then 
ordered to retire by small groups mutually supporting 
each other. Eventually, the Dublin Fusiliers reached 
Ligny with about two hundred men, comprising soldiers 
from nearly every battalion of the 3rd, 4th and 5th 
Divisions and even two men of the 1st Division who had 
drifted together upon the nucleus under Major Shewan. 
First they struck out south-east, but finding Germans on 
every side, turned north-west, and after many wanderings 
and more than one sharp engagement, finally seventy- 
eight officers and men came through the German lines 
into Boulogne. The remainder of Major Shewan's party 
seems to have been killed or taken to a man. 


On the whole, therefore, it appears that of three detach- 
ments which may have numbered in all two thousand 
men, about one half escaped and rejoined the Army 
sooner or later. These details may be considered trivial, 
but they are a testimony to the courage and resource of 
the officers and men of the old army. Moreover, these 
detachments had done far better work than they imagined. 
Though a mere handful scattered along some eight thousand 
yards of front, they had prevented the enemy for several 
hours from advancing along the whole of that line. The 
perpetual bombardment of vacated positions, and in 
particular that of Audencourt which was repeated an 
hour after dark, is plain evidence that the Germans were 
exceedingly suspicious of what might be before them. 
Beyond question, they had suffered very heavily as 
indeed was admitted by German officers to some of their 
British prisoners and from one cause and another they 
were disinclined to take risks. That the isolation of these 
British detachments was undesigned in no way detracts 
from the merit of their achievement. 1 


Sketch 3. While this handful of men was thus hampering the 
Maps 3 German advance, the main body of General Smith-Dorrien's 
force was in full retreat. The 5th Divisional Train had 
started down the Roman Road very early in the day, and 
two staff officers had accompanied it to keep it moving 
all night, for there was fear of being overtaken by German 
cavalry. The 3rd Divisional Train had followed it, cutting 
in on the Roman Road from the north. Thus one serious 
encumbrance was removed, but the highway was, never- 
theless, choked for miles with an interminable column of 
transport, with the inevitable consequence of long blocks 
and frequent short checks. The bulk of the 5th Division 
and of the 19th Infantry Brigade reached Estrees (15 
miles from Le Cateau) between 9 P.M. and midnight, wet, 
weary, hungry and longing for sleep, and were directed on 

1 Hauptmann Heubner, in his book " Unter Emmich vor Luttich. 
Unter Kluck vor Paris," p. 87, confirms the view stated of the effect of 
the parties left behind. His battalion of the 20th Infantry Regiment, 
6th Division, III. Corps, came On to the field late. He says, " in front of 
" us there still swarmed a number of scattered English troops, who were 
" easily able to hide in the large woods of the district, and again and again 
" forced us to waste time in deployments, as we could not tell what their 
" strength might be." 


to the cross roads, two miles beyond. There the sorting 26 Aug. 
of the troops was taken in hand, a simple process on paper, 1914 - 
but difficult enough in practice on a dark and dismal 
night : staff officers stood at the cross roads, shouting 
continuously, " transport and mounted troops straight on, 
" 3rd Division infantry to right, 5th Division infantry to 
" left." Then, when the men turned as directed, they 
were sorted by other officers according to brigades and 
battalions. By 2 A.M. on the 27th sorting was completed, 
and orders were issued for a start at 4 A.M., at which time 
all units of the 5th Division and the detachments from 
other formations marched off in good order; some units, 
of course, were very weak in numbers, as many men had 
not come in. The transport and mounted troops were 
sorted out south of St. Quentin, and there, well after sun- 
rise next morning, a rearrangement of the column of the 
5th Division was also made ; but this was a matter of 
reorganizing units, not individual soldiers as had been the 
case near Estrees. 

About midnight, the 3rd Division, having marched 
by Elincourt and Malincourt, came into Beaurevoir, north 
of the 5th Division. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade with the 
Bays (1st Cavalry Brigade) and 4th Dragoon Guards 
(2nd Cavalry Brigade), seeing the crowd on the Roman 
Road, retired east of Estrees to Brancourt, Monbrehain 
and Ramicourt. The llth Hussars (1st Cavalry Brigade) 
came very late into Estrees. Half of the 9th Lancers 
(2nd Cavalry Brigade) withdrew a little to the south of 
the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to Fresnoy, the remainder having 
marched with the headquarters of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade 
right across the rear of the Army from Bohain, through 
Beaurevoir to Marquaix (11 miles north-west of St. Quentin). 
Of the 4th Division, the 10th and 12th Infantry Brigades, 
with the divisional artillery, retreated, 2 J miles west of the 
3rd Division, by Malincourt and Villers Outreaux to Le 
Catelet and Vendhuille, which were reached between 11 P.M. 
and midnight. The llth Infantry Brigade, finding its way 
blocked by the 3rd Division at Elincourt, remained there 
for the night. 

Everywhere, when the order to halt was given, the 
men dropped down on the road, and were asleep almost 
before they reached the ground. The only precautions 
possible at the late hour were to push small piquets out 
a few hundred yards on each side of the road. Officers 
of the cavalry and artillery, themselves half dead with 


fatigue, had to rouse their men from a semi-comatose 
state to water and feed the horses, and to rouse them 
once more to take the nose-bags off, taking care lest they 
should fall asleep in the very act. And all this had to 
be done in inky darkness under drizzling rain. After 
three or four hours' halt, the order was given to resume 
the march. The officers roused the sergeants, and the 
men were hunted out, hustled on to their feet, hardly 
conscious of what they were doing, and by some means 
or other formed into a column. Then the column got 
under way, drivers and troopers sleeping in their saddles, 
infantry staggering half -asleep as they marched, every 
man stiff with cold and weak with hunger, but, under 
the miraculous power of discipline, plodding on. 

Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien on arrival at St. Quentin 
on the evening of the 26th found that G.H.Q. had left 
for Noyon. After sending off a report of the situation 
in writing, he proceeded there himself by motor car, to 
give personally to the Commander-in-Chief an account of 
the action and its successful breaking off. He arrived 
shortly after midnight and was informed that the orders, 
issued by G.H.Q. in the afternoon of the 26th, for the 
retirement to the St. Quentin (Crozat) Canal Somme 
line (La Fere Ham) still held good. Earlier in the 
day, before Sir John French had quitted St. Quentin, 
General Joffre and General Lanrezac had visited him for 
a conference. Sir John pointed out the isolated position 
of the British Army, as he conceived it, and the French 
Commander-in-Chief had confirmed the "directive" already 
sent to British G.H.Q. In this he had stated his intention 
of withdrawing to the Laon La Fere St. Quentin 
position, and subsequently retaking the offensive, as soon 
as a new Army, the Sixth, could be formed on the left 
of the British. His main interest was that, in spite of 
the heavy losses they had suffered, the British should 
not fall out of the line. The Field-Marshal agreed to 
make his retirement as deliberately as possible. . 

Thus posted in the general situation, Sir H. Smith- 
Dorrien returned to his Headquarters at St. Quentin. 
Under his instructions, the 5th Division and the 19th 
Infantry Brigade were intercepted at Bellenglise and 
turned south-eastward upon St. Quentin, where supplies 
awaited them, with directions to march thence upon 
Ollezy (4 miles east of Ham). The 3rd Division was 
to continue its march from Bellicourt and Hargicourt 


upon Vermand, heading for Ham. Unfortunately its 27 Aug. 
supply column had missed it and it was without rations 1914 - 
from the 25th until the afternoon of the 27th. The 4th 
Division was to proceed via Roisel, Hancourt, Monchy 
Lagache to Voyennes (4 miles west of Ham), picking up 
supplies en routed 


Very soon after daylight on the 27th August, troops Sketch 3. 
began to pour into St. Quentin. The 1st Cavalry Brigade ^P s 3 4 
and most of the 2nd were fed and sent a few miles south 
to Grand Seraucourt, where they arrived, men and horses 
completely exhausted. The duty of forming a covering 
screen to the north of the town was therefore assigned to 
the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, which, together with the Com- 
posite Regiment of Household Cavalry, had reached a 
position at Homblieres just to the east of St. Quentin at 
4 A.M. 

At 5 A.M. the 14th Infantry Brigade trudged into the 
town, received its rations and re-formed its battalions. 
Trains had already been ordered on the railway, as well 
as carts and wagons on the roads, for the conveyance of 
men who could march no further. The remainder of the 
5th Division came in later, when the sun of a scorching 
day was already high in the heavens. Stragglers and parties 
from the 3rd and 4th Divisions who had drifted eastward 
no doubt because the retirement had been commenced on 
the right , contributed to an appearance of confusion 
which was completely absent on the routes of those 
divisions themselves and of the battalions of the 5th 
Division, which marched into the town as properly formed 
bodies. After a halt of an hour or two for rest and food, 
the men recovered in an astonishing fashion ; and when 
they resumed their march, they were no longer silent and 
dogged, but cheerfully whistling and singing. The 5th 
Division then pursued its way, after a halt for the re-arrange- 
ment of the column, without any interference from the 
enemy, and before dark was in position south of the Somme 

1 An extract from the war diary of a unit of the French 1st Cavalry 
Division of this date deserves quotation : 

" We crossed the route of an English battalion retiring after having 
" suffered very heavy losses. It moved in touching order : at the head, 
" imperturbable, a party of wounded. I ordered a salute to be given to 
" these brave men." 



about Ollezy, with its ranks sadly thinned, but ready again 
to meet the enemy. 

The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, acting as rear guard, was 
equally unmolested. It was joined at 10 A.M. by that part 
of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, which had marched westward 
across the rear of the army on the 26th and retraced its 
steps eastward at dawn on the 27th. Not until 2.30 P.M. 
was there any sign of the enemy advancing south in this 
quarter, 1 and then the 3rd Cavalry Brigade fell back 
deliberately to Itancourt (4 miles south-east of St. 
Quentin), E Battery exchanging a few rounds with the 
German guns before it retired. West of St. Quentin the 
9th Lancers (2nd Cavalry Brigade) found contact with the 
enemy near Fresnoy, but did not withdraw from that 
place until 6 P.M. and then only to Savy (south-west of St. 
Quentin). There they and the greater part of the 2nd 
Cavalry Brigade took up their billets for the night, the 
3rd Cavalry Brigade being on their right at Itancourt, and 
the 1st in support at Grand Seraucourt. 

Further to the west, the 3rd Division was hardly more 
molested than the 5th. After turning west from Belli- 
court (8 miles north by west of St. Quentin), it halted 
from 9 A.M. until 1 P.M. at Hargicourt, and then continued 
its way south to Villeret (2 miles south-west of Belli- 
court). There a small party of German cavalry, accom- 
panied by guns, made some demonstration of pursuit, but 
speedily retired when greeted by a few rifle bullets from 
109th Battery, having no wish to engage what seemed to 
be British infantry. The division next marched to Ver- 
mand, where supplies were issued about 4 P.M., and at 10 
P.M. it resumed its march to Ham. The 9th Infantry 
Brigade acted as rear guard throughout, having suffered 
little in the battle of Le Cateau. 

The 4th Division on the left was followed up rather 
more closely by the German cavalry. The llth Infantry 
Brigade, from Serain, moved across country to Nauroy, 
just to the south-east of Bellicourt, on the morning of the 
27th, and halted there at 8.30 A.M. to allow the 3rd Division 
to pass. Rather more than an hour later the Corps 
Cavalry of the II. Corps reported the enemy's presence in 
the adjacent villages ; and before the brigade had left its 
billets, German guns opened on Nauroy at a range of a 
thousand yards. To cover the retirement of the brigade, 

1 The enemy seen, according to Billow's Sketch Map 2, was divi- 
sional cavalry of the VII. Corps, the right of his Army. 


the brigadier ordered Colonel Jackson of the Hampshire 27 Aug. 
to engage the guns. Acting on these orders, the latter 1914< 
sent two parties to take up a position to the east of Nauroy 
and open fire on them. After an engagement with enemy's 
dismounted cavalry and cyclists, Colonel Jackson was 
wounded and taken prisoner, but his men stood fast until 
the retiring brigade was out of sight, and then withdrew, 
eventually rejoining the brigade on the high ground beyond 
the canal. The main body meanwhile had moved south- 
west to Villeret, picking up en route Major Prowse's party 
of the Somerset L.I. from Ligny, a party of the I/Rifle 
Brigade under Captain Prittie, and other men who had 
stayed late on the battlefield. Thence the llth Infantry 
Brigade, "fairly all right " as it reported, marched through 
Tertry, where it struck the divisional route to Voyennes. 

The 10th Infantry Brigade and 4th Cavalry Brigade 
(in touch with General Sordet's cavalry on the left) had 
meanwhile passed on to Roisel (8 miles south-west of 
Le Catelet), where both made a short halt ; the 12th 
Infantry Brigade, which had gone on with the 4th Divi- 
sional Artillery, deployed at Ronssoy (4 miles south- 
west of Le Catelet), with the Carabiniers at Lempire to 
cover it, as there were indications, from German aero- 
planes flying over the division and the appearance of a 
few cavalry scouts, that the enemy might be in close 
pursuit. Nothing, however, happened. The 10th Infantry 
Brigade then pursued its way to Hancourt, where it arrived 
at 4 P.M. The 12th Infantry Brigade retired from Ronssoy 
at 11 A.M., and reached Hancourt between 5.30 and 6 P.M., 
where Major Parker's party of the King's Own overtook 
it. At Hancourt, by divisional orders, these two brigades 
entrenched and rested, awaiting the enemy; but none 
appeared. At 9.30 P.M. (all wounded and transport, 
which included many requisitioned and country wagons, 
having been sent off two hours earlier) the march of the 
4th Division was resumed in inky darkness by Vraignes, 
Monchy Lagache, and Matigny upon Voyennes. There 
was not the slightest hindrance from the enemy, but men 
and horses were so utterly weary that the usual hourly 
halts were omitted for fear that if the whole division were 
once halted and the men sat or lay down, they would never 
be got moving again. 

The stoppages and checks inseparable from the march 
of a long column in the dark were doubly nerve-racking to 
the Staff during this period ; for not only might they mean 


that the division would be delayed and have incredible 
difficulty in restarting as men were lying on the roads 
careless of whether wheels went over them or not but also 
that enemy cavalry had cut in ahead or on the flank of the 
column. With strained ears the officers listened for firing, 
and only breathed again when the tremor of movement 
crept down the column, and they heard the glad sound of 
the crunch of wheels on the road. Such was the discipline, 
however, that not a single shot was fired in alarm during 
this and the many other nights of marching in August and 
September 1914. Parties sent on ahead blocked all side 
and cross roads, so that units, even if gaps in the column 
occurred, could not go astray. Measures were taken by 
the interpreters l in all the villages passed through to 
detect the presence of spies, generally by the simple pro- 
cess of a language test. But for this precaution and the 
difficulties of adjusting the foreign harness of the requisi- 
tioned vehicles, officers and men for the most part might 
have dreamed as they mechanically moved on that they 
were back at autumn manoeuvres. 

The Carabiniers remained in position about Lempire till 
noon, by which time German infantry came into sight ; 
but, though heavily shelled, the 4th Cavalry Brigade with- 
drew unharmed to Hesbecourt, and after waiting there till 
2.30 P.M. fell back westwards in rear of the 4th Division by 
B ernes, Hancourt and Cartigny to Le Mesnil, thence going 
south, finally crossing the Somme after nightfall and 
reaching Rouy, near Voyennes, at 1 A.M. on the 28th. The 
4th Division, three hours later at 4 A.M. began passing 
the Somme valley into Voyennes, at the very spot where 
Henry V. had crossed the river in his retreat northwards 
on Agincourt. At Voyennes Brigadier-General Hunter- 
Weston with the main body of the llth Infantry Brigade 

Thus by dawn on the 28th, Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 
had practically brought the whole of his force to the south of 
the Somme, thirty-five miles from the battlefield of the 26th. 

The position of the various formations was approxi- 
mately as follows : 

Sketch 3. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades : 

Maps 3 In a semi-circle, four miles south of St. Quentin, from 

& 13 - Itancourt, through Urvillers and Grand Seraucourt to 


1 A French officer or soldier was allotted to each Staff and unit as 
interpreter and go-between in business with the local officials. 


The remainder of the force was south of the Somme, 28 Aug. 
with rear guards on the northern bank. 1914. 

5th Division and 19th Infantry Brigade : 

South-west of the cavalry brigades, at Ollezy and Eaucourt, 
near where the Crozat canal meets the Somme. 
3rd Division : 

On the left of the 5th : 

7th Infantry Brigade Ham, on the Somme. 
8th Infantry Brigade On march to Ham from Vermand. 
9th Infantry Brigade Ham. 
4th Division : 

On the left of the 3rd, at Voyennes on the Somme. 
4th Cavalry Brigade : 

On the left of the 4th Division, at Rouy. 

I. Corps and 5th Cavalry Brigade were 18 miles to the north- 
eastward of the II. Corps, on the high ground south of 
Guise. Their movements will be dealt with in the next 

It was tolerably evident that the German pursuit, if it 
can be said ever to have been seriously begun, had been 
shaken off. There were, as a matter of fact, already some 
indications that von Kluck was pressing south-westward 
rather than southward. General Sordet's Cavalry Corps 
and the 61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions had been in 
conflict with German troops about Peronne on the after- 
noon of the 27th ; and British cavalry entering St. Quentin 
at dawn on the 28th found no sign of the enemy. These 
indications, however, came too late to be of any help to 
the British Commander-in-Chief on the 27th. As regards 
the German //. Corps, the most westerly of von Kluck's 
Army, the reports of air reconnaissances in the early 
morning, taken in conjunction with General Smith- 
Dorrien's verbal report at midnight on the 26th/27th after 
the battle of Le Cateau, were reassuring. The road from 
Le Cateau was absolutely clear ; there were neither 
British rear guards nor German advanced guards' to be 
seen south of a line drawn east and west through Peronne. 
But, further east, a heavy column 1 had been observed 
moving southward on the road between La Groise and 
fitreux (12 and 6 miles, respectively, north of Guise), 
besides other troops at Le Nouvion (10 miles north-east 
of Guise) ; and Sir John French had as yet no clear informa- 
tion to show whether these were friendly or hostile. General 
Joffre, who visited him at Noyon at 11 A.M. on the 27th, 

1 Von Billow's X. Reserve Corps. 


was already preparing his counter-stroke, but, in order to 
effect it, needed to fall back further than he had first 
intended, to a line from Rheims to Amiens, of which 
he proposed that the British should occupy the section 
between Noyon and Roye (12 miles north-west of Noyon). 
Maps 3 In furtherance of this plan, Sir J. French, in a message 
&4 - timed 8.30 P.M., directed the II. Corps, with the 19th 
Infantry Brigade, to be clear of Ham by daylight on the 
28th, to march to Noyon and cross to the left bank of the 
Oise ; the 4th Division to cover the retirement from 
ground north of the Somme ; and the Cavalry Division 
to cover both the II. Corps and the 4th Division. He 
added an order that all unnecessary impedimenta and all 
ammunition not absolutely required should be thrown 
away, so that vehicles might be available to carry 
exhausted men. 1 

Sketch 3. After the superhuman efforts of the previous days, this 
Maps 3 further retreat with hardly a moment's rest was a very 
& 13 * serious trial to the II. Corps, for many of its units were still 
on the march when the orders to continue reached them. 
At 4 A.M. on the 28th the 5th Division marched from Ollezy 
for Noyon, with frequent halts, for the day was oppressively 
hot. As many men as possible were carried on vehicles of 
one kind or another. The 52nd Battery of the XV. 
Brigade, far from being demoralized by the loss of all its 
guns, had already been formed into a corps of mounted 
rifles. On its way it passed Sir J. French himself, who 
praised its good work and assured it that it had not 
been done in vain, since the battle of Le Cateau had saved 
the left flank of the French Army. 2 After a short halt at 
Noyon, the 5th Division moved on to Pontoise, and there 
at last went into billets. The 3rd Division followed, halting 
at Crissolles and Genvry, just short of Noyon, between 6 
and 7 P.M. Physically it was nearly worn out after march- 
ing sixty-eight miles in fifty hours, but morally its spirit 
was unbroken. Last came the 4th Division, not less 
exhausted than the rest. At 4 A.M. the division had 
received G.H.Q. orders, issued at 8.30 P.M. the previous 
evening, to occupy a position north of the Somme ; whilst 
preparations to do so were being made, later orders arrived 
about 6 A.M. directing it to be ready to continue the retire- 
ment at 8 A.M. Leaving the 12th Infantry Brigade for a 
time on the northern bank to work in combination with 
the rear guard of the 3rd Division, the remainder of the 
1 Appendix 17. 2 See General Joffre's message at end of Chapter. 


division, which still consisted of artillery and infantry 28 Aug. 
only, took up positions on the south bank of the Somme. 1914 - 
The retirement was continued at 1.30 P.M., the 3rd Division 
having withdrawn its rear guard from Ham about an hour 
earlier. The 4th Division reached its halting - places, 
Bussy, Freniches and Campagne, just north of those of 
the 3rd Division, shortly before midnight. 

Meanwhile, of the Cavalry Division, the 3rd Brigade 
had extended eastward, seeking touch with the I. Corps, 
and its movements will be related in due course with those 
of that corps. The 1st Cavalry Brigade, after completing 
its reconnaissance at St. Quentin, fell back with great 
deliberation to the Somme at Ham, whence, having crossed 
the river, it moved southwards to Berlancourt. The 2nd 
Cavalry Brigade likewise fell back by Douilly upon Ham, 
and halted just north-east of the 4th Division at Le Plessis 
and Flavy le Meldeux. Patrols of German cavalry had 
been seen at Douilly, but no force of greater importance. 
The 4th Cavalry Brigade, on the extreme left, withdrew 
shortly before noon to Cressy, a short distance south of 
Nesle and four miles north of the 4th Division, leaving 
French cavalry and guns, with which it had been in touch, 
to deal with enemy troops reported to be at Mesnil just 
north of Nesle. 

The worst trials of General Smith-Dorrien's force were 
now over. Since the 23rd August, the II. Corps had 
fought two general actions, besides several minor affairs, 
and had marched seventy-five miles, measured on the map 
by the route taken by the 3rd Division. 



Dated 27th August 1914. 

Commandant en Chef des Armees Frangaises a Commandant 
en Chef Armee Anglaise Noyon Oise. No. 2425. 

L'Armee anglaise en n'hesitant pas a s'engager tout entiere 
centre des forces tres superieures en nombre a puissamment con- 
tribue a assurer la securite du flanc gauche de 1'Armee Frangaise. 
Elle 1'a fait avec un devouement, une energie et une perseverance 
auxquels je tiens des maintenant a rendre hommage et qui se re- 
trouveront demain pour assurer le triomphe final de la cause com- 
mune. L'Armee Franaise n'oubliera pas le service rendu ; animee 
du meme esprit de sacrifice et de la meme volonte de vaincre que 
1'Armee Anglaise, elle lui affirmera sa reconnaissance, dans les 
prochains combats. JOFFRE. 




IV. Corps. 

According to Oberleutnant Dr. Lohrisch, 1 the time of the principal 
attack of the IV. Corps on the high ground west of Le Cateau was 
" nearly midday " (English time 11 A.M.), but our accounts make 
it a little earlier. His brigade, the 14th of the 7th Division, attacked 
on both sides of the Forest Le Cateau road, and the 13th Brigade 
on both sides of the Forest Montay road, as already pointed out, 
with the 8th Division, from Solesmes, further west, near Caudry. 
It would seem that there was a considerable gap between the 7th 
and 8th Divisions, which accounts for the 13th, 15th and 9th British 
Infantry Brigades being left in comparative peace most of the 
morning. 2 Soon after, the 14th Brigade was ordered " to move to 
" the left and make an enveloping attack against the enemy's right 
" flank." 

As the brigade moved round the east of Le Cateau, it " brushed 
" against the right flank of the neighbouring corps [the III.], which 
" had pressed on even farther than ourselves." He goes on to state 
that there was delay owing to the river Selle being unfordable. 
" Meantime, the noise of battle had diminished, the enemy had 
" realized the danger of envelopment and had evacuated the ridge." 
So the companies " lay down by the roadside and awaited orders." 
At 4 P.M. they got an order to pursue. They were then fired on 
from Honnechy, and deployed, but as the ///. Corps was coming 
up " from the south " [sic] at 7 P.M. they went into bivouac west 
of St. Benin. 

Von Kluck states that the " fighting was hottest in the area 
" where the 8th Division was engaged," that is, near Inchy Caudry, 
where the British 8th and 7th Infantry Brigades stood. This is 
hardly borne out by our own accounts. 

III. Corps. 

Both divisions of this corps pushed their advanced guards to 
the eastern edge of the Forest of Mormal, to Maroilles and Aulnoye, 
on the night of the 25th/26th. 3 

About 11 A.M. on the 26th, the commander, General von Lochow, 
came upon the field and offered General Sixt von Armin, command- 
ing the IV. Corps, his assistance. The latter considered that direct 
support was not necessary, and that the III. Corps could help best 
by continuing its advance as originally ordered via Le, Cateau on 
Maretz. The III. Corps, therefore, marched on through Land- 
recies ; but " its two divisions being on one road, one behind the 
" other, the advance and deployment took up so much time that it 
" was very late before they attacked on the left flank of the Army." 4 

Doubt has been thrown on this account by information obtained 

1 In " Siegessturm von Liittich an die Marne." 

2 See p. 153. 

3 See p. 131, and footnote 1, p. 141. 

4 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 79. 


from Berlin ; this is as follows : " On the 26th August, the 5th 26 Aug. 
4 Division (whose head was near Maroilles) marched on Maurois via 1914. 
4 Carrefour de 1'Ermitage (inside the Forest of Mormal, 3 miles 
4 north-west of Maroilles) Rouge Mer (inside the Forest, 1| miles 
' north-west of Landrecies) Landrecies Pommereuil (south) 
* Bazuel St. Benin. 6th Division (which had one half west and 
4 the other east of the Forest) marched via Jolimetz (bringing its 
' eastern half back through the Forest of Mormal) into the area 
' Forest Boussies Englefontaine Vendegies an Bois. This 
' division did not go into battle on the 26th August." 

It has been noticed, under the IV. Corps, that the 14th Brigade 
in its enveloping attack brushed against the flank of the ///. Corps 
44 which had pressed on even farther." Why the 5th Division did so 
little is something of a mystery ; it undoubtedly lost heavily, both 
when in column on the road, and in its attempted flank attack, from 
the fire of the Heavy Battery of the 5th Division. Why the 6th 
Division, whose head was at Jolimetz, only 9 miles from Le Cateau 
town, on the night of the 25th/26th took no part in the fight will 
no doubt be explained later. Possibly it marched eastward as von 
Kuhl seems to indicate and then back again through the Forest. 
The history of the 24th (Brandenburg) Infantry Regiment, the only 
unit of the 6th Division that has yet published one, has no entry 
between the crossing of the French Frontier in the afternoon of 
the 25th August and 10 A.M. on the 28th. 

IV. Reserve Corps. 

There is a better account of the doings of the IV. Reserve Corps. 
Captain Wirth, attached to a Divisional Staff (his unit and a regiment 
mentioned identify it as the 7th Reserve) states that the corps left 
Valenciennes early and marched south-westward. At 11 A.M. news 
arrived that the cavalry in front was engaged. The troops left 
the road and marched along bridle-tracks and across fields to the 
sound of the guns. About 2 P.M. the advanced guard reached the 
Le Cateau Cambrai high road north of Cattenieres, and found 
the cavalry, 44 which has been thrown on the defensive," under 
cover behind the houses. The divisional artillery had been sent 
forward and was already in position. The division attacked towards 
Caudry Wambaix. Little progress was made against the 4th 
Division some infantry, however, reached Haucourt. The Staff 
billeted for the night in Wambaix. 

The other division of the IV. Reserve Corps, the 22nd, advanced 
(according to a letter in the series " Feldpostbriefen," vol. 5) on the 
right wing of the corps, and deployed about 2 P.M. north of the 
Le Cateau Cambrai road about Carnieres Cauroir, and advanced 
in the first instance against French cuirassiers, and then against 
French infantry near Seranvillers. The division met with con- 
siderable opposition, and was heavily shelled by French and British 
artillery. There were fairly heavy casualties the writer's platoon 
lost 37 men. The French retired under cover of darkness. His 
regiment bivouacked at Crevecceur. 

From Valenciennes to the battlefield (Cattenieres) via Solesmes 
is twenty miles. If the divisions of the IV. Reserve Corps, which 
as far as Solesmes were apparently on one road, started at 3 A.M., 
the usual hour, the advanced guard took eleven hours to cover the 
distance, a somewhat mediocre performance. 


II. Corps. 

The heads of the two divisions reached Avesnes le Sec and 
Bouchain, 9 miles from Cambrai, on the night of the 25th/26th. 

The official " Schlachten und Gefechte " states that the 3rd 
Division was engaged at Cambrai on the 26th. The 4th Division 
is known by contact with the French to have been west of Cambrai. 
At night it reached Hermies, 10 miles south-west of Cambrai. No 
doubt von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps, having gone eastwards, 
the 4th Division was acting as flank guard and watching the French 
61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions, which were west of Cambrai, 1 
whilst the 3rd attacked Cambrai ; the corps was later pushed on to 
intercept the British retreat westwards. The headquarters of the 
corps at night were at Pallencourt, five miles north of Cambrai. 

//. Cavalry Corps (von der Marwitz). 

This corps spent the night of the 25th/26th August in villages 
around Avesnes lez Aubert (6 miles N.N.E. of Cambrai). Its 
orders for the 26th were to continue the pursuit due south " against 
" the great Roman Road Bavai Maretz Nauroy." 2 

44 2nd Cavalry Division, with the 4th and 7th Jager, via Carnieres 
44 and Esnes against Beaurevoir. 

" 9th Cavalry Division, with the 3rd, 9th and 10th Jager, via 
44 Beauvois against Fremont. 

44 4th Cavalry Division via Caudry against Maretz." 

Thus, the "2nd Cavalry Division, with two Jager battalions, 
struck the 12th Infantry Brigade ; the one brigade of the 9th 
Cavalry Division and three Jager battalions, the llth Infantry Brigade, 
and the 4th Cavalry Division, with the two brigades of the 9th, the 
7th Infantry Brigade. 

After an initial surprise, the 2nd Cavalry Division was fought to 
a standstill (this is confirmed by Wirth), and retired to shelter until 
relieved by the arrival of the IV. Reserve Corps. 

The position of the 9th Cavalry Division soon became critical 
(verdammt kritisch), but it hung on until 44 about 2 P.M., when 
44 reinforcements came up [probably from the 8th Division] and 
44 the artillery belaboured the enemy's position." 

The 4th Cavalry Division does not claim to have done much, and 
44 its losses were comparatively small. . . . Towards 11 A.M. the 
44 infantry of the IV. Corps (8th Division) entered the fight, and 
44 the attack was then carried forward to Bethancourt." 

At dusk the II. Cavalry Corps was withdrawn and concentrated 
at Naves and Cauroir, two villages a couple of miles north-east and 
east of Cambrai. 

1 See p. 186. 

2 " Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 55-63. A detailed account of the action 
of the German cavalry at Le Cateau, extracted from this book, will be 
found in the " Army Quarterly," January 1922. 




(See Sketches 3, 4 & 5 ; Maps 2, 3, 9, 12 & 13) 

IT is now time to return to the I. Corps and see what it Sketch 3. 
was doing on the morning of the 26th whilst the II. Corps M *P S 3 
was engaged at the battle of Le Cateau. 

Whatever loss the Germans may have suffered in their 
repulse by the Guards at Landrecies, they had succeeded in 
disturbing the repose of the I. Corps and in keeping it 
on the alert all night in expectation of an attack. Its 
strategic position, besides, was far from satisfactory; 
for the Germans appeared to be about to break in between 
it and the II. Corps, and to be threatening the flank of 
its retreat from the west. Soon after midnight, from 
his headquarters at Le Grand Fayt, five miles from Land- 
recies, Sir Douglas Haig took measures to meet the situa- 
tion, and to occupy a position facing north and north-west. 
The trains, after dumping supplies, were ordered off south- 
ward to Etreux, carrying the men's packs in the empty 
lorries. The 1st Division was ordered to take position 
near Favril, a mile and a half S.S.E. of Landrecies, to 
cover the withdrawal of the 2nd Division on its .right. 
The 2nd Division was divided, part retiring to the right 
and part to the left rear of the 1st Division, as under : 

The 5th and 6th Infantry Brigades to close in from Noyelles 
and Maroilles upon Le Grand Fayt (4 miles east of Favril) ; 

The 4th (Guards) Brigade to retire as soon as possible from 
Landrecies on La Groise (south-west of Favril) ; 

The 5th Cavalry Brigade to cover the west flank of the 
corps between Ors and Catillon. 

The French Reserve divisions on the right of the corps 


were warned of the retirement, and a brigade, sent by 
General Valabregue to gain touch with the right of the 
2nd Division, occupied first the line Marbaix Maroilles, 
and subsequently the high ground between Le Grand 
Fayt and Maroilles. 

As matters turned out, the Germans made no attempt 
to renew their attacks. The 3rd Infantry Brigade en- 
trenched at Favril, and the 4th passed it, totally un- 
molested, by 4.15 A.M. The 3rd Infantry Brigade was 
slightly engaged later in the day, but would probably 
have been left in absolute peace had not a section of 
British guns, by firing at a distant column of German 
infantry marching west, 1 provoked retaliation and a sharp 
attack by some dismounted cavalry, which resulted in a 
few casualties to the 1 /Gloucestershire. At noon the 1st 
(Guards) Brigade relieved the 6th Infantry Brigade near 
Le Grand Fayt, enabling the latter to strike southward 
through Etreux, where the 4th (Guards) Brigade had secured 
the bridge leading across the Sambre to Venerolles. The 
retirement of the 1st Division then began ; between 1 P.M. 
and 2 P.M. the 1st (Guards) and 2nd Infantry Brigades 
left Favril for Fesmy and Oisy, both to the north of Etreux. 
Not one of these brigades reached its destination before 
10 P.M., and the men were greatly fatigued. The 3rd 
Infantry Brigade remained at Favril till 5 P.M., and then 
marched straight to Oisy. 

The progress of the 5th Infantry Brigade from Noyelles 
to Le Grand Fayt was arrested for several hours by the 
movement across its line of march south-westwards on 
Guise of General Valabregue's divisions. 2 About half 
a mile to the south-west of Marbaix towards 1 P.M. the 
transport of the main body was blocked ; and the 2/Con- 
naught Rangers, who formed the rear guard, came per- 
force to a halt. One company remained in rear of the 
transport, and the rest of the battalion halted on the 
road from Maroilles to Marbaix, a mile south of Tais- 
nieres. At this point French infantry was entrenching 
a position, whilst French cavalry patrols guarded the 
roads in all directions. From these it was understood 
that there was no enemy in the vicinity. After taking 
due precaution, therefore, to watch the approaches, the 

1 Part of the ///. Corps moving from Landrecies on Le Cateau. See 
Kaupert's "Das Infanterie -Regiment, No. 48," pp. 16, 17. 

2 Palat, vol. v. p. 160, states that the I. Corps was on roads assigned 
to the Reserve divisions. The difficulty was adjusted during the night. 
See p. 206 below. 


commanding officer, Colonel Abercrombie, allowed the 26 Aug. 
Connaught Rangers to rest, sending word to the brigadier 
that he would move on to Le Grand Fayt at 3 P.M. unless 
otherwise ordered. At 3.15 P.M. French patrols came in 
with the news that some two hundred Germans, with a 
machine gun, were close at hand. Colonel Abercrombie 
at once set out with two platoons towards Marbaix, and, 
after advancing some six hundred yards, was met by 
heavy fire from artillery and a machine gun. Calling 
up the rest of the battalion, he deployed it south of 
the road. The companies then advanced over difficult 
country, of high hedges and small enclosures, under 
severe fire, which however ceased after about an hour. 
A messenger sent to brigade headquarters to report 
the situation was unable to find them ; and between 5 and 
6 P.M. the company commanders, being out of touch 
with Colonel Abercrombie, began to withdraw inde- 
pendently through Le Grand Fayt south-westwards upon 
Barzy with such men as they could collect. At 6 P.M. 
Colonel Abercrombie followed with about a hundred men, 
being assured by an inhabitant that no enemy was in 
Le Grand Fayt ; but, while passing through the village, 
his detachment was fired upon by Germans concealed 
in the houses, and comparatively few escaped. Other 
parties were also cut oft, and altogether nearly three 
hundred officers and men of the Connaught Rangers were 
missing. 1 

The 5th Infantry Brigade finally went into billets at 
Barzy, 5 miles north-east of the bulk of the 2nd Division. 
The 5th Cavalry Brigade, which was little molested in 
its duty of covering the left flank except by occasional 
shells, fell back with trifling loss eight miles further to 
Hannapes, on the Oise, about two miles south-west of 
Etreux, not reaching its billets until far into the night. 

The position of the I. Corps on the night of the 26th 
was in and around Etreux ; in detail as follows : 

1 Vogel gives a full account of this fight. The attackers were the 1st 
Guard Cavalry Brigade and the Garde-Schulzenbataillon. He states that 
French troops also took part, and about 100 of them were taken prisoners, 
as well as 93 English. According to him, it was the German cavalry 
which was surprised, and the Divisional Staff, which was close up to the 
vanguard, was under fire. He mentions that the German cavalry fought 
on foot for the first time in the war. His division billeted at Marbaix. 

The German official list of battles shows that the 2nd Guard Reserve 
Division of the X. Reserve Corps was also engaged at Marbaix on the 26th 


1st Division : Fesmy, Petit Cambresis, Oisy. 

2nd Division : fitreux, Venerolles. 

5th Cavalry Brigade : Hannapes. 

Corps Hqrs. : 1J miles east of Hannapes. 

The II. Corps and 4th Division, and remaining cavalry 
brigades were 18 miles to the west, in retreat south-west- 
ward to the Oise, on the front of St. Quentin Le Catelet. 

The French 53rd and 69th Reserve Divisions were to 
the south-east of the I. Corps at Iron and Lavaqueresse. 


At 1 A.M. on the 27th the Staff of the French Fifth 
Sketch 3. Army arranged with General Haig that the road through 
Maps 3, Guise should be left to the British ; * and, since there was 
no choice but for the whole of the I. Corps to march by 
this single highway, unless part were sent by less direct 
roads on the west side of the Oise, all vehicles were " double- 
banked," and staff officers were sent forward to Guise to 
provide for the passage of two distinct streams of traffic 
through the town. The operation promised to be critical, 
in view of the gap between the I. and II. Corps having 
widened rather than decreased on the 26th, while to the 
north and north-east the enemy was reported to be in 
considerable strength. The situation was not rendered 
less anxious by a false report, which was current early 
in the afternoon, that he was also in great force just to 
the north of St. Quentin. General Maxse's (the 1st, 
Guards) Brigade was detailed as rear guard to both divi- 
sions ; General Bulfin's (2nd Infantry) Brigade as a 
western flank guard ; and the 2/Welch, with the 46th 
Battery R.F.A., as eastern flank guard. Great stress 
was laid on the importance of holding the enemy at a 
distance from the high ground on the north-west between 
Fesmy and Wassigny, so that he should be unable to 
bombard Etreux, where supplies were to be issued to the 
troops as they passed through. The 5th Cavalry Brigade 
was sent well to the west on the other side of the Oise, 
with instructions to follow a route, parallel to the divisions, 
by Grougis, Aisonville, Noyales and Hauteville. Mean- 
while, Brigadier-General Chetwode, its commander, led 
it to a central position five miles to the west of Etreux, 
between Mennevret and Le Petit Verly, and pushed out 
patrols to the north and north-west. 

1 The Reserve divisions crossed the Oise by bridges above Guise. 


The corps was under way by 4 A.M., the 1st Division 27 Aug. 
remaining in a covering position until the 2nd Division 1914 - 
had moved off. The latter reached its billets without 
the slightest molestation, but the march for the 5th Infantry 
Brigade from Barzy to Neuvillette (8 miles south-west of 
Guise) was long ; the 2/Highland Light Infantry, in par- 
ticular, having been employed in repairing the roads at 
dawn, did not arrive at its halting-place until 10 P.M., after 
a tramp of thirty miles. The false alarm of the enemy's 
presence at St. Quentin kept the entire division in move- 
ment longer than would otherwise have been necessary, 
for the 4th (Guards) Brigade was sent out westward as 
a flank guard, and the 6th Infantry Brigade spent the 
night entrenching itself just east of the 5th, about Mont 

Meanwhile, until late in the afternoon, the 1st Division 
remained in position, with rear and flank guards out, 
waiting for the road to be clear ; but there was no 
sign of serious pressure upon the line north-west of 
Etreux, to which so much importance was attached. Map 12. 
In General Maxse's rear guard, the 1/Coldstream were 
about Oisy (2 miles north of Etreux) beyond the canal, 
and the 1 /Black Watch and 1 /Scots Guards just to the 
west of them, in touch with the western flank guard at 
Wassigny ; the Munster Fusiliers, with two troops of the 
15th Hussars and a section of the 118th Battery R.F.A., 
all under Major Charrier of the Munsters, formed the rear 
party east of the Sambre Canal, and had been under arms, 
facing north-east, since dawn. The general position of 
this party was four miles from Etreux, and extended for 
two miles, from Bergues through Fesmy to Chapeau 
Rouge, where it struck the north south road from Land- 
recies to Etreux. The eastern flank guard was in position 
to the south-east, on the hill south of Bergues. The 
ground here falls gently westwards to the Sambre Canal, 
which flows first on one side then on the other of the 
Landrecies road. The country lent itself to defence, being 
divided into small enclosures by thick hedges, which were 
passable at certain gaps only. During the morning a 
thick white mist lay upon the ground, and later there was 
a thunder-storm, so that visibility was never good. 

Two companies of the Munsters were about Chapeau 
Rouge as screen, watching the roads that run north-west- 
wards and northwards to Catillon and La Groise, and the 
remainder of the rear party were half a mile to the south-east 


in front of Fesmy. Later, half a company, and one troop 
of the 15th Hussars, were pushed south-eastwards to 
Bergues. No sign of the enemy was seen until 9 A.M., 
when a German cavalry patrol came down the road to 
Chapeau Rouge from the north, halted within five hundred 
yards, and fired a few shots. The Munsters made no 
reply, but the Germans came no closer. There were 
indications of another column of the enemy to the north- 
east, moving south-westwards from Prisches upon Le 
Sart straight at the centre of Major Charrier's force ; but 
its advanced party had galloped back on the appearance 
of a corporal of the 15th Hussars. By 9.30 A.M. all was 
again quiet, and Lieut. -Colonel Morland of the 2/Welch 
informed Major Charrier that he was going to withdraw 
the eastern flank guard to Boue (2 miles north-east of 
Etreux). General Maxse directed the Munsters to hold on to 
their position until ordered or forced to retire ; and Major 
Charrier sent word to the general that, the choice of the 
route being left to him, he also should fall back by the 
road to Boue. The best part of an hour passed away, 
when, towards 10.30 A.M., German infantry came down 
again from the north-east, and opened an attack on 
Bergues, which a little later was extended also to Chapeau 
Rouge. The Munsters being by this time entrenched, 
held their own with little difficulty ; the two guns found 
a target in a German column to the north-west, and all 
went well. 

At 11 A.M., whilst this action was in progress, the 3rd 
Infantry Brigade was at last able to start southward from 
Oisy ; and at the same time Colonel Morland's flank 
guard also moved south upon Boue". The firing died 
away, and at noon General Maxse confirmed Major Charrier's 
choice of the road for his retreat, at the same time sending 
to all units of the rear guard their final instructions for 
retirement, the hour only being left blank. By 12.20 P.M. 
the road at Etreux was reported clear of all transport ; 
and a little later General Maxse despatched orders (time 
1 P.M.) to every unit of the rear guard, " Retire at once." 
This message, though sent by two routes, failed to reach 
the Munster Fusiliers. 

Meanwhile, at 12.30 P.M. or thereabouts, German 
infantry developed its attack in greater strength on both 
flanks, at Bergues and at Chapeau Rouge, though, as yet, 
without the support of artillery. As the pressure became 
heavier, in accordance with Major Charrier's orders, the 


two companies at Chapeau Rouge gradually withdrew 27 Aug. 
south-eastwards towards Fesmy. The men, finding good 1914 - 
shelter in the ditches by the side of the road, worked their 
way back with very slight loss, and by shooting down 
the Germans as they showed themselves at the gaps in 
the hedges, forbade any close pursuit. The guns also 
opened fire, first towards the north, and later to the north- 
east, in which quarter the enemy was now observed to be 
in greatest force. Following the Munsters up slowly, the 
Germans delivered a strong attack upon Fesmy, their guns 
now coming into action for the first time ; but they made 
little progress. The Munsters' machine guns did very 
deadly work, firing down the road from Fesmy to Le Sart ; 
but although the Germans tried to mask their advance by 
driving cattle down on the defenders, it was to no purpose. 
At 1.15 P.M. Major Charrier sent to General Maxse this 
short message : " Am holding on to position north of 
" Fesmy village, being attacked by force of all arms. Get- 
" ting on well. The Germans are driving cattle in front of 
" them up to us for cover. We are killing plenty of them." 

Thus holding his own, Major Charrier 's chief anxiety 
was for his detachment at Bergues. He pushed out a 
platoon to the eastward, in the hope of gaining touch with it, 
but the platoon was driven back by superior numbers ; and, 
in fact, the troops at Bergues were about this time forced 
out of the village and compelled to retreat southward to 
a farm. Here after checking German pursuit by fire and 
then counter-attacking, the detachment retired westward 
to the Sambre Canal, and thence down the road to Oisy. 

Meanwhile, Major Charrier continued his defence of 
Fesmy with great spirit ; he had now the whole of his 
battalion, except the half -company at Bergues, under his 
hand ; and he had need of them. So resolute was the 
onset of the Germans that, in places, they approached to 
within a hundred and fifty yards of the village, and a few 
actually broke into it and shot down two of the artillery 
wagon teams. Every one of these bold men was killed or 
captured, and at 1.50 P.M. Major Charrier sent off the last 
message which came through from him to General Maxse : 
'' We have German wounded prisoners, who say that about 
" two regiments are opposing us and some guns. They 
" belong to the 15th Regiment " that is to say, to the VII. 
Corps of the German Second Army. 1 

1 They really belonged to the 15th Reserve Infantry Regiment of the 
2nd Guard Reserve Division. The German official list of battles shows 


About this time 1.45 to 2 P.M. the 2nd Infantry 
Brigade, the western flank guard, marched away from 
Wassigny for Hannapes, south of fitreux, with little 
hindrance ; the Northamptons, who brought up the rear, 
lost only four men, and claimed on their side from forty to 
fifty German troopers killed, wounded or taken prisoner. 1 
Thus the greater part of the 1st Division was now in motion 
to the south ; the 3rd Infantry Brigade was within an hour's 
march of Guise ; and there remained only the rear guard 
to bring off. Major Charrier, having struck the enemy 
hard, with little loss to himself, at 2.30 P.M. threw out 
flank guards wide upon each side and began his retreat 
upon Oisy. The movement was necessarily slow, the 
flanking parties being impeded by hedges ; and it was 
some time before the rearmost of the Munsters and the 
two guns left Fesmy. At 3 P.M. the cyclist, who had 
failed to deliver the copy of General Maxse's final order to 
Major Charrier, reached the Coldstream Guards near Oisy, 
and gave them their instructions to retire forthwith. 
Simultaneously, the detachment of the 15th Hussars and 
Munster Fusiliers from Bergues came into Oisy and took 
Map 3. over the guard of the bridge there. But it was now 
evident that the gap between the rear guard and the 
corps was increasing rapidly : the 3rd Infantry Brigade 
being by this time at Guise ; the 2nd Infantry Brigade 
closing in upon Hannapes, some five miles in rear ; 
whilst the 1st, at another five miles distance, was still 
in position at Oisy. The 3rd Infantry Brigade was there- 
fore halted at Guise, and the I/South Wales Borderers and 
the XXVI. Brigade R.F.A. were sent back north about 
three miles to Maison Rouge, where at 3.30 P.M. they 
took up a position to cover the retreat of the 1st (Guards) 

By that hour the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards and 
Black Watch had begun to withdraw, the northern of the 
two bridges over the canal near Oisy being blown up after 
the last man had crossed it ; and shortly after 4 P.M. the 
rear-guard cavalry reported strong hostile columns moving 
south upon La Vallee Mulatre, immediately to the west of 
Wassigny. The three battalions, upon reaching the level 

that the 2nd Guard Reserve Division of the X. Reserve Corps was engaged 
at Fesmy on the 27th August. 

1 They belonged to the 16th Uhlans, the corps cavalry of the VII. Corps, 
the right of the Second Army (see Cramm's " Geschichte des Ulanen- 
regiments, No. 16," p. 106). 


plateau to the south of Etreux, found themselves threatened 27 Aug. 
from the north and west by a German cavalry division l and 1914 - 
two batteries. There was a good deal of firing as they 
retired over the next three miles of ground to the south- 
ward, but it was confined chiefly to the artillery; for 
the enemy was held at a distance without much difficulty 
by the British batteries at Maison Rouge. Thus the three 
battalions reached Guise with trifling loss, the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade retiring parallel to them on the west. The 
firing died down at dusk, and the 1st Division went into 
bivouac, the 3rd Infantry Brigade at Bernot, just north of 
the 2nd Division at Mont D'Origny, at 9 P.M., and the 2nd 
and 1st Brigades at Hauteville and Jonqueuse, north- 
east and east of Bernot, at 11 P.M. The 2/Welch of the 
eastern flank guard also reached Bernot at this hour; 
it had been much impeded by refugees, but beyond 
suffering a good deal of sniping, had not been inter- 
fered with by the enemy. The 5th Cavalry Brigade 
also came into the same area for the night ; and the 
detachment of 15th Hussars at Oisy marched southward 
on to Mont d'Origny, which it reached at midnight. The 
men were greatly fatigued by their long and trying day, 
but they had been little pressed by the Germans. A 
cavalry division had, indeed, appeared very late from the 
north-westward, but no infantry had threatened them 
from the north, and the reason for this must now be 

As it left Fesmy the rearmost company of the Munsters Map 12. 
had become engaged with German infantry, but was able 
to disengage and rejoin the main body of the battalion, 
then, about 5.45 P.M., half-way to Etreux, and con- 
tinue its retreat. But as it approached the village, 
Germans were seen crossing the road ahead, and fire was 
opened not only by German infantry from the houses on 
the northern outskirts, but from a battery not more than 
fifteen hundred yards away to the eastward. Then for the 
first time the Munsters began to fall fast. One of the two 
guns of the section of the 118th Battery was disabled, a 
single shell destroying the whole team. The other gun 
was promptly brought into action against the German 
artillery, but over three hundred rounds had already been 
fired, and ammunition was very nearly exhausted. Still 
undaunted, Major Charrier pushed forward two companies 
to clear the way through Etreux ; but the Germans had 

1 The Guard Cavalry Division of Richthofen's Corps. 


installed themselves in the trenches dug during the fore- 
noon by the Black Watch, and also occupied a house, 
which they had loopholed, west of the road. A house east 
of the road now burst into flames, evidently giving the 
signal for a converging attack from all sides upon the 
Munsters. Major Charrier ordered the remaining gun to 
be brought up to demolish the loopholed house, but the 
range was so short that the team and detachment were 
instantly shot down. A third company, which was 
supporting the advance of the two companies, was then 
sent to make an attack on the railway-cutting to the east 
of Etreux station. In spite of enfilade fire, both of in- 
fantry and artillery, the company worked up to within 
seventy yards of the cutting and charged. The men 
were mowed down on all sides, and only one officer 
reached the hedge, with one man, who was then killed by 
his side. 

Meanwhile Major Charrier had led three charges against 
the loopholed house, in one of which his adjutant actually 
reached the building, and fired his revolver through a 
loophole, only to drop stunned by a blow from falling 
brick-work. These gallant efforts were all in vain. It was 
now 7 p.m. The Germans attacked from south, east and 
west, and, though temporarily driven back at one point by 
a bayonet charge, continued to advance. Major Charrier 
was shot dead alongside the deserted gun on the road ; and 
so many officers had by this time fallen, that the command 
devolved upon Lieutenant E. W. Gower. Collecting such 
men as were left, he formed them in an orchard, facing to all 
points of the compass, and continued to resist. Gradually 
the Germans crowded in on them from three sides, bringing 
fresh machine guns into position, and at 9.15 P.M. they 
closed in also from the north, and the little band of not 
more than two hundred and fifty of all ranks with ammuni- 
tion almost spent, was overpowered. The Munsters had 
been fighting against overwhelming odds for nearly twelve 
hours, and discovered at the end that they had been 
matched against at least six battalions of the 73rd and 77th 
Reserve Infantry Regiments, of the 19th Reserve Division, 
besides three of the 15th Regiment of the 2nd Guard Reserve 
Division, all forming part of the X. Reserve Corps. Beyond 
question, they arrested the enemy's pursuit in this quarter 
for fully six hours, and their heroic sacrifice was not made 
in vain. 



Retreat of B.E.F. 
Positions at night are shown by dates. 








la Fere 




MILES 543210 

Ordnance Sarvey, 1920. 



I. Corps. On the high ground south- 28 Aug. 

wards of Guise from Long- 1914 - 
champs to Mont d'Origny, with Sketch 3. 

5th Cavalry Brigade. the 5th Cavalry Brigade and Maps 3 

4th (Guards) Brigade west of & 13 ' 
the river Oise about Hauteville 
and Bernot. 

1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry South of St. Quentin from 
Brigades (portions). Itancourt to Savy. 

II. Corps. Still 18 miles to the south- 

westward of the I. Corps. 
4th Division. Part south of the Somme from 

Ham to Rouy ; the remainder 
4th Cavalry Brigade. within four hours' march of the 



At dawn on the 28th, although the weather was still 
extremely hot, the retreat of the I. Corps on La Fere was 
resumed under more favourable conditions ; for, although 
two German divisions were reported from eight to twelve 
miles north of St. Quentin, the rumour that they were 
actually in that town was proved to be false ; l and, 
moreover, the French XVIII. Corps was now in touch with 
the British on the east. The transport began to move off 
at 2 A.M. In addition to a rear guard, a flank guard (under 
Brigadier-General Home) consisting of the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade, 5th Infantry Brigade and XXXVI. Brigade 
R.F.A., was thrown out to the west ; and the rear guard, 
the 2nd Infantry Brigade with a brigade of artillery and a 
squadron, held the heights of Mont d'Origny during the 
passage of the main body through Origny. Nothing was 
seen of the enemy until shortly after noon, when a German 
column of all arms appeared, working round towards the 
right rear of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, and about 12.30 
P.M. its guns opened fire, but with little effect. 2 The 
German infantry made some semblance of attack, but was 

1 On the night of the 27th/28th, the German III., IV. and IV. Reserve 
Corps were 6 miles from St. Quentin on a front facing south and south- 
west (Kluck). 

2 From von Billow's map, the column would appear to belong to the 
X. Corps then, with the rest of the Second Army, moving south-westward. 
Later in the day, that Army turned south. 


easily held at a distance, and at 2 P.M. the last of the 
British battalions marched off, covered by infantry of 
Valabregue's Reserve divisions, which occupied the 
position as they vacated it. The I. Corps then made its 
way, always by a single highroad, towards La Fere. The 
march was again most trying, for on the greater part of 
the way battalions, as well as transport, were " double- 
banked," and a swarm of refugees added to the con- 
gestion. Thus, choked with dust, on an airless, oppressive 
day, the I. Corps at last reached La Fere, crossed the Oise 
southwards, and, in the course of the afternoon, reached 
its billets : the 1st Division just south of La Fere at 
Fressancourt, Bertaucourt and St. Gobain ; the 2nd 
Division further to the westward at Andelain, Servais and 

It remained to be seen whether the German cavalry 
would press into the gap between the I. and II. Corps, 
which was still some fifteen miles wide. It will be remem- 
bered that on this day the 3rd Cavalry Brigade had 
been pushed eastwards by Major-General Allenby to gain 
touch with the I. Corps. 1 Early in the forenoon the 
brigade was in position six or seven miles south of St. 
Quentin, between Cerizy and Essigny, when at 10 A.M. 
firing was heard to the north, which was followed shortly 
afterwards by the appearance of French Territorial infantry- 
men retiring south from St. Quentin through Essigny. 
Learning from them that they had been surprised by 
German cavalry and artillery at Bellenglise, Brigadier- 
General Gough withdrew his right, the 4th Hussars, south- 
wards from near Essigny to Benay, to cover their retreat. 
After a time, his patrols reported a brigade of Uhlans to be 
advancing on Essigny and a second column of all arms 
further to the east, moving on Cerizy. About 1 P.M. an 
advanced party of Uhlans was caught in ambush by the 
4th Hussars about Benay and dispersed with loss, their 
killed being identified as Uhlans of the Guard Cavalry 
Division. The column in rear of them thereupon attempted 
to work round General Gough' s eastern flank, but was 
stopped by the guns of E Battery R.H.A. Thus what 
seems to have been the western column of the Guard 
Cavalry Division was brought, with comparative ease, to a 

1 See p. 199. 

CfiRIZY 215 


The eastern column of the German cavalry was more 
enterprising, but no more successful. As commander of 
the left flank guard of the I. Corps, Brigadier-General 
Home l had sent the whole of the 5th Cavalry Brigade to 
the western bank of the Oise, and, at 10.30 A.M., Sir Philip 
Chetwode moved it to Moy, a village nearly abreast and 
2 miles east of Cerizy, where he halted in the Oise 
valley ; and leaving the Scots Greys on outpost, with the 
20th Hussars in close support, on the high ground to the 
north-west by La Guinguette Farm, he rested the remainder 
of the brigade in Moy. About noon the enemy came into 
" sight, advancing south along the main road from St. 
Quentin. Upon this a squadron of the Scots Greys, with 
a machine gun, was sent to occupy a copse on the eastern 
side of the road a little to the north of La Guinguette Farm 
(on the St. Quentin La Fere road, J mile east of Ce*rizy), 
with one troop pushed forward to a building near the road 
about half a mile ahead, and a section of J Battery R.H.A. 
was unlimbered about half a mile to the south-east of 
the copse. The advanced troop of the Greys was driven 
back by superior numbers, but all attempts of hostile 
patrols to penetrate to La Guinguette were foiled by the 
fire of the remainder of the squadron. At length, at 
2 P.M., two squadrons of the enemy advanced in close 
formation on the eastern side of the road, and, being fired 
on both by the Greys and by the two guns, dismounted. 
Most of their horses, terrified by the bursting shells, 
galloped away, and the troopers, after discharging a few 
rounds, also turned tail. Thereupon, General Chetwode 
at once ordered the rest of J Battery into action and 
directed the 12th Lancers, with two squadrons of the 
Greys in support, to move round the enemy's eastern 
flank, and the 20th Hussars to advance along the St. 
Quentin road and turn them from the west. The dis- 
mounted Germans meanwhile made off in all haste, but 
the leading squadron, C, and the machine-gun section of 
the 12th Lancers, hurrying northward, caught sight of a 
body of German cavalry, about eight hundred yards away, 
moving in close formation towards Moy. Attacking it 
with fire, the 12th Lancers compelled the Germans to 
dismount, and then stampeded their horses. The two 

1 See p. 213. 


other squadrons and J Battery now coming into action, 
C squadron mounted and, led by Lieut.-Colonel Wormald, 
approaching over dead ground, got within fifty yards 
of the enemy and charged. Some seventy or eighty of 
the Germans, who proved to be the 2nd Guard Dragoon 
Regiment, were speared. The 12th Lancers lost one 
officer and four men killed, and the lieutenant-colonel 
and four men wounded. Further pursuit would obviously 
have been imprudent, but General Chetwode remained 
on his ground long enough to collect all his wounded his 
casualties did not exceed thirty and to ascertain that 
his guns had played such havoc with the German reserves 
that their total losses might fairly be reckoned at three 
hundred killed and wounded. Finally towards evening, 
he and General Gough fell back independently, the former 
to the left of the I. Corps, to Sinceny and Autreville, the 
latter to rejoin the Cavalry Division, west of the Oise canal 
at Frieres (6 miles W.N.W. of La Fere) and Jussy (just 
north of Frieres). Though the action at La Guinguette 
had been comparatively insignificant, it had very effectually 
damped the ardour of the German cavalry. 1 


Sketch 3. When all movements had been completed on the night 
Map 13. O f t he 28th/29th August, the I. Corps was south of the 

Map 3. * The Chaplain of the Guard Cavalry Division, Dr. Vogel, gives the 
following account of this action. After relating the march of the 
division on the 28th August from La Groise via Wassigny and Bohain 
to Homblieres (3 miles east of St. Quentin), which it reached at 1 P.M., 
and a fight around St. Quentin with two battalions of the French 10th 
Territorial Infantry Regiment (von Kluck says that his ///. Corps was 
also engaged there) which lasted until 7 P.M., he states that in the course 
of this " a report came from the Dragoons that they were in a severe 
action east of Urvillers [4 miles north-west of Moy whence the British 
5th Cavalry Brigade had moved]. They had stumbled on what appeared 
to be weak enemy infantry in the wood south-west of the village, and 
had attacked with three squadrons dismounted, intending to charge with 
the other three. It turned out, however, that the brigade had to deal, 
not with disorganized fugitives, but with a strong detachment of the 
intact Franco-British Army that had advanced from La Fere. This was 
evident from the lively infantry fusilade which they received as they 
approached mounted. It was not easy to get clear (Loslosung war nicht 
leicht), but with the assistance of a battery, the brigade succeeded in 
withdrawing behind the hill north of the wood, which was held by the 
Guard Schutzenbataillon. Some British squadrons which also had deployed 
' to charge were driven back by our guns, which opened at just the right 
moment. The 3rd Guard Uhlans now reinforced the troops holding the 
hill. A troop of the Dragoons, under Lieutenant Graf Schwerin, was 
ridden over by British Hussars. The wounded, amongst whom were 
men with six or seven lance wounds, and several bullet wounds, were 
taken prisoner by the enemy." 


Oise and of La Fere ; the II. Corps, with the 4th Division, Night of 
was north and east of Noyon, with one division south of 28 
the Oise. Thus, the two wings of the Army were still 
11 miles apart, the gap between them being more or 
less covered by cavalry in a curve from the left of the 
I. Corps to the northern end of the II. Corps. On the 
right, the British were 6 miles in rear of the left of the 
French Fifth Army, but on the left in touch with Sordet's 

In greater detail, the positions of the British were : Map 3. 

I. Corps : 

On the northern edge of the Forest of St. Gobain and 

Coucy, from Fressancourt to Amigny. 
5th Cavalry Brigade : Sinceny. 

II. Corps (including 4th Division and 19th Infantry Brigade 

and Cavalry Division) : 
1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades : 
At Berlancourt, Flavy le Meldeux Plessis, and Jussy, 

3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions : 

From Freniches, south and east, through Genvry to 

4th Cavalry Brigade : 

Cressy (3 miles south of Nesle) north-west of the 4th 

From the 28th onward every day was to bring the 
two wings closer to each other. Sir John French, after 
meeting some of the 5th Division on the march, as has 
already been told, had motored on to La Fere to see the 
I. Corps, and had satisfied himself as to the good spirit 
of the troops. He had also received the promise of the 
6th Division from England about the middle of September 
and of a complete corps from India at a later date. Other 
important intelligence also reached him. The troops 
of General d'Amade, together with General Sordet's 
Cavalry Corps, had been seen in action between Peronne 
and Bray sur Somme, but by evening it appeared that 
they had been pressed back. There was good reason to 
believe that German headquarters judged the British 
Army to be beaten beyond hope of speedy recovery, and 
were intent upon extending their enveloping movement 
westwards until they could sweep all opposing forces into 
their net. 

General Joffre, during his visit to Sir John French 
on the 27th, had mentioned the preparation of a counter- 


stroke and the formation of a new Army on his left. The 
first sign of it was seen on this day in the arrival of units 
between Amiens and Ham. This Army, the Sixth, under 
General Maunoury, was to be formed between the British 
and General d'Amade. As a beginning, the VII. Corps, 1 
brought from Belfort, was detraining at Villers Bretonneux, 
to the east of Amiens, and a Moroccan brigade was already 
assembled further to the east. 2 On the same day General 
Joffre his Western Armies being on the general line 
Rheims Amiens ordered the French Fifth Army to take 
the offensive towards St. Quentin along a line parallel 
to the Oise from Guise to La Fere, hoping at best to strike 
an effective blow which might check the German advance, 
and at least relieve the British Army from all further 
pressure. 3 

On the evening of the 28th August, the French Fifth 
Army was disposed on the arc of a circle opposite Guise 
from Vervins to Vendeuil (3 miles north of La Fere). 4 
It was thus in touch with, but in advance of, the British 
Army. During the day, General Valabregue's Reserve 
divisions, which since the night of the 25th/26th, as 
already described, had marched so close to the I. Corps 
as sometimes to share its roads, had had hard fighting on 
the Oise bridges at Guise and in its neighbourhood, and 
had withdrawn at nightfall to the left of the line of the 
Fifth Army. 

Sir John French issued orders at 11.30 P.M. 5 for the 
British to halt and rest on the 29th, but with the condition 
that all formations should be withdrawn to the south of 

1 14th Division and 63rd Reserve Division. The 13th Division 
remained in Alsace. 

2 According to von Kluck, von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps " was 
" surprised in its billets [near Peronne] by the French 61st and 62nd Reserve 
" Divisions (of d'Amade's force) on the morning of the 28th. The French, 
'* however, were driven from the field at Manancourt (7 miles S.W. of 
" Bapaume) by parts of the II. Corps and IV. Reserve Corps.' 1 '' This was 
the action of Mesnil (Palat, vol. v. pp. 141-2). 

3 The orders, according to General Lanrezac (" Le Plan de Campagne 
Fran9ais," p. 218) were verbal : " Take the offensive a fond on St. Quentin 
and as soon as possible, without bothering about the English." Palat, 
vol. v. p. 170, states : " The situation of the British Army, constantly 
" menaced in rear and on the left flank, naturally pre-occupied the General- 
" in-Chief. He judged it necessary to diminish the enemy pressure on it 
** by carrying out a counter-offensive with the Fifth Army." Hanotaux, 
vol. viii. p. 82, says, " Avant tout, il faut fixer, c'est-a-dire sauver, 1'armee 

4 Palat, vol. v., and Hanotaux, *' La Bataille de Guise St. Quentin, 
28-30 aout 1914 " (" Revue des Deux Mondes," September 1918). 

6 Appendix 18. 


a line practically east and west through Nesle and Ham, 27-28 Aug. 
connecting with the French at Vendeuil. During the 1 14- 
evening of the 28th, Sir Douglas Haig was asked by General 
Lanrezac to co-operate in his coming offensive ; but on 
informing G.H.Q. of the request, he received instruc- 
tions that he was not to take part. The Field-Marshal 
was anxious to withdraw his exhausted troops as soon as 
possible to some safe locality for eight or ten days, where 
they might rest and be re-equipped, and he accordingly 
arranged with General Joffre that they should fall back 
to a line a little to the south of the Aisne between Soissons 
and Compiegne. The situation was complicated by the 
fact that von Kluck's sweep westwards had compelled 
the evacuation of the British advanced base at Amiens. 
It was on this day that St. Nazaire, at the mouth of 
the Loire, was first suggested to take the place of 
Havre as the principal sea base of the British force in 

It may be mentioned here that, with the view of Map 2. 
creating a diversion on the western flank to assist the 
British Expeditionary Force and of supporting the Belgians, 
three battalions of Royal Marine Light Infantry, under 
command of Brigadier-General Sir George Aston, were 
landed at Ostend on the 27th and 28th August. They 
were re-embarked on the 31st. 1 News of this landing 
appears to have reached the German Supreme Command 
on the 30th. With regard to it the head of the Operations 
Branch of the German General Staff has written : 2 

" At this time there was, as may be imagined, no lack 
" of alarming reports at General Headquarters. Ostend 
" and Antwerp took a prominent part in them. One day 
" countless British troops were said to have landed at Ostend 
" and to be marching on Antwerp ; on another that there 
" were about to be great sorties from Antwerp. Even 
" landings of Russian troops, 80,000 men, at Ostend were 
" mentioned. At Ostend a great entrenched camp for the 
" English was in preparation. 3 . . . Though, of course, 
" the security of the rear and right flank of the army re- 
" quired constant attention, such, and even worse informa- 
" tion, could not stop the advance of the troops." 

1 For details see Sir Julian Corbett's ** Naval Operations," vol. i. pp. 
92-4 and 123-4. 

2 General-Leutnant Tappen, " Bis zur Marne," p. 22. 

3 Brigadier-General Aston's men did commence digging. 



27 Aug. What became of the German First and Second Armies 

1914 - after the battle of Le Cateau will now be related. 
Sketch 5. On the 26th August, von Billow l had issued orders 
Map 3. f or the continuation of the pursuit in a " sharp south- 
" westerly direction ... as sufficient elbow room had to 
" be obtained for the great wheel of the Third, Fourth and 
* ' Fifth Armies round Verdun. ' ' ' ' After continuous fighting 
with French rear guards," the /. Cavalry Corps and three 
and a half corps of the Second Army 2 reached an approxi- 
mate S.E. and N.W. line a little in front of Avesnes, 
the cavalry and X . Reserve Corps moving to Marbaix, 
where they had the fight, already related, 8 with the Con- 
naught Rangers ; but the Second Army took no part in 
the battle of Le Cateau. 

On the 27th, after Le Cateau, von Kluck, making a 
late start, moved about twelve miles in a south-westerly 
direction : III. Corps via Maretz to Nauroy, IV. Corps 
to Bellicourt Vendhuille, 17. Corps, with //. Cavalry 
Corps in front, to Sailly Saillisel Fins (5 miles south-east of 
Bapaume) ; and the IV. Reserve Corps followed between 
the //. and IV. Corps to Roisel Li^ramont. The only 
fighting that von Kluck records is isolated encounters 
of the //. Corps and cavalry with General d'Amade's 
forces on the British left, at Heudecourt and west- 
wards. The IX. Corps (less the 17th Division) marched 
from Maubeuge via Le Cateau some five hours later 
than the rest of the Army, and billeted in and about 

The Second Army (still without the 13th Division], 
reached a S.E. and N.W. line through Etreux, where the 
X. Reserve Corps, on its western flank, ran into the Munster 
Fusiliers. 4 

During the day, von Kluck was released from von 
Billow's command ; he was therefore free to make a 
wide turning movement to the west, instead of being 

1 Billow, p. 29. 

2 The ISth Division was left behind at Maubeuge, where General von 
Zwehl took charge of the investment with the VII. Reserve Corps (less 
13th Reserve Division on march from Namur), and the 17th Division of 
the IX. Corps. The 13th Division rejoined the Second Army in the nick 
of time to take part in the battle of Guise. 

8 See p. 205. 4 See p. 209 et seq. 






<* $p Cologne 

Maestricht "'-V 

a^mr-i """*? V 

MARCH, 18 Aug. -5 Sept. 

Defended Areas 


Ordnance Survey, 1920- 


tied to the Second Army in order to assist it to tactical 28 Aug. 

On the 28th, therefore, the First Army sent on cavalry 
and field batteries in pursuit of d'Amade's forces, and 
there was rear-guard fighting ; the remainder of the Army 
moved south-west across the British front. The //I. 
Corps got no further than Bellenglise outskirts of St. 
Quentin, owing to the opposition met with from French 
Territorials, British cavalry and stragglers ; the heads of 
the three corps on the right just reached the Somme, on a 
front six miles on either side of Peronne ; the IX. Corps 
was still a march behind on the left. 

In the Second Army, von Biilow ordered the Guard 
and X. Corps on his left (east) to stand fast and recon- 
noitre, since the French Fifth Army was on their front 
behind the Oise, whilst his right swung round in touch 
with the First Army : 

" /. Cavalry Corps" he ordered, " will endeavour to 
" attack the British in the rear, moving round the south 
" of St. Quentin ; " 

the VII. Corps (less 13ih Division) was to march early 
to St. Quentin ; the X. Reserve Corps was to make a 
short march of about six miles south-west from Etreux. 
Except for the cavalry fight at La Guinguette x and the 
right of the X. Reserve Corps brushing against the rear 
guard at Mont d'Origny, 2 all touch with the British was lost. 
Von Biilow does not say what places the above-named corps 
reached by evening, but he records that in the afternoon of 
the 28th he received a message from von Kluck asking 
him to deal with the disorganized English forces, who 
appeared to be falling back on La Fere. He therefore 
ordered the X. Reserve and VII. Corps (less 13th Division) 
to push on westwards, towards the passages of the Somme 
and the Crozat Canal near Ham and St. Simon (4 miles 
east of Ham), which they reached on the 29th. 

Thus the B.E.F., though at first followed by the right 
of the Second Army and the left of the First 9 escaped from 
pressure on the 28th owing to the gap between these 
Armies steadily increasing to some fourteen miles. 

During the evening of the 28th an officer from O.H.L. 
brought to von Biilow and von Kluck " General Directions 
for the Further Conduct of Operations." 8 

1 See p. 215. a See p. 213. 

3 Given in extenso in von Kluck. Thus far the original plan for the 
First Army to sweep west of Paris was maintained. 


In accordance with these, the First Army and II. 
Cavalry Corps were to march west of the Oise towards 
the lower Seine, and the Second Army and /. Cavalry Corps 
towards Paris ; at the same time, the First Army was to be 
" prepared to co-operate in the fighting of the Second 
" Army and be responsible for the protection of the right 
" flank." As the Armies were already marching south-west, 
these directions did not necessarily mean any change in 
the orders to their corps. 

A completely erroneous appreciation of the situation 
appears to have been current at O.H.L. at this time. It 
furnishes a clue to the apparently haphazard way in which 
the German Armies moved, and is so extraordinary that 
it is best, perhaps, to quote the words of the Chief of the 
Operations Section i. 1 

" The French, as expected, had offered battle to prevent 
" us from penetrating into France. The highly favourable 
" reports that came in daily, even on the 25th August, in 
" conjunction with the great victory of the Sixth and 
" Seventh Armies in Lorraine on the 20th and 25th, 
" aroused in Great Headquarters the belief that the great 
" decisive battle in the West had been fought and con- 
" eluded in our favour. Under the impression that there 
" had been a ' decisive victory,' the Chief of the General 
" Staff resolved on the 25th, in spite of arguments to the 
" contrary, to detach forces to the East. He believed the 
" moment had come when, in conformity with the great 
" operations plan, a decisive victory in the West having 
" been won, considerable forces could be sent to the East 
" to obtain a decision there also. For this purpose six 
" corps were detailed, among them the XI. Corps and 
" Guard Reserve Corps (besieging Namur). . . . Only after 
" the whole extent of the victory at Tannenberg became 
" known was the order cancelled as regards the four corps 
" to be taken from the centre and left ; one of these, the 
" V. Corps of the Fifth Army, was actually awaiting 
" entrainment at Thionville. On the subsequent days 
" further reports of successes came in. After O.H.L. had 
" issued instructions on the 26th and 27th for the continua- 
" tion of the operations on the basis that great victories 
" had been gained, the First Army reported on the 28th 
" August that it had defeated the British Army, and that 
" it was already half-way between the Belgian frontier and 
" Paris. . . . The idea that the French retirement was 

1 Tappen, pp. 18, 19. 


" according to plan was only expressed by a few solitary 28 Aug. 
" individuals." 1914 - 

This statement may be partly designed to throw some 
of the blame on the Army commanders for forwarding 
misleading reports of victories, but the despatch of the 
two army corps to Russia and the bringing of the V. 
Corps out of the line are established facts. Nor would it 
seem that the successes were unexpected. Shortly before 
the war Conrad von Hotzendorf, the Chief of the Staff of 
the Austro-Hungarian Army, enquired of von Moltke how 
long it would be before a decision in the West would be 
reached, and the latter replied : " the thirty-sixth to 
fortieth day of mobilization ; " x as the 2nd August 1914 
was the first day, this meant the 6th to 10th September, a 
very accurate forecast. 



The general line of retirement of the French Fifth Army after Map 3. 
Charleroi was south-westwards, its orders being to reach the line 
Laon La Fere. The movements of General Valabregue's two 
Reserve divisions in contact with the British I. Corps have been 
mentioned. The XVIII. Corps (35th, 26th and 38th (African) 
Divisions) on their right, retired via Avesnes, and crossed the Oise 
at Romery (4 miles east of Guise). The III. Corps, next on the 
right (5th, 6th and 37th (African) Divisions), followed in echelon 
behind the XVIII. ; it passed the French frontier on the 25th and 
marched through Fourmies (10 miles south-east of Avesnes), and 
crossed the Oise between Etreaupont and Ohis. The X. Corps 
marched via La Capelle to Hirson, first south and then south-east, 
to keep in touch with the Fourth Army, and thence to Vervins. 
The I. Corps, from the right of the Army, after reaching Travaux 
(7 miles south of Vervins), was brought north-west into second line 
between the III. and X. Corps. 

Thus, by the evening of the 28th August, the Fifth Army was 
drawn up facing north and north-west behind the Oise from Veryins 
practically to La Fere, in the following order : 4th Cavalry Division, 
51st Reserve Division, X. Corps, III. Corps, XVIII. Corps, Vala- 
bregue's Reserve divisions, with the I. Corps coming up into second 
line. The German Second Army was in contact with the whole 
front of the Fifth Army, and had secured a bridgehead at Guise. 

1 Conrad's " Aus meiner Dienstzeit," vol. i. p. 370. 

2 From Palat, vol. v., and Hanotaux in the " Revue des Deux 
Mondes," 1st September 1918. 




Cavalry Division 

I. Corps : 

1st Division 
2nd Division . 

II. Corps : 

3rd Division 
5th Division . 
4th Division . 
19th Infantry Brigade 

1 The British losses at Waterloo were 8,458 (Wellington Despatches, 
vol. xii.). 

23rd. 24th. 


26th. 27th. 
(Le Cateau.) 



































(See Sketches 4 & 5 ; Maps 3, 4, 14, 15 & 16) 

EXCEPT for some minor adjustments to secure the best Sketches 
ground possible, in the course of which the 4th Division ^ & 5 - 
had moved back a little to the area Bussy Sermaize 14 aps 
Chevilly, the morning of the 29th August found the 
British Expeditionary Force halted in its over -night 
positions on the Oise. 1 To the right front of the British 
was the French Fifth Army, and to their left front the 
newly -formed French Sixth Army, General Maunoury's 
headquarters being at Montdidier. 2 In pursuance of 
General Joffre's directions, the Fifth Army attacked 
towards St. Quentin. But the situation had changed since 
the operation had been planned ; the advanced troops of 
the German Guard and X . Corps, driving back Valabregue's 
Reserve divisions which opposed them, had crossed the 
Oise on the evening of the 28th. As they were rapidly 
reinforced, it became necessary to stop the French main 
attack, which was going well, and deal with this menace 
to what was now the right flank of the Fifth Army. 
The counter-offensive drove the Germans back over the 
Oise, but on the left in the original direction towards St. 
Quentin, no advantage was gained ; the opposing force : 

1 See p. 217. 

2 At this time, General Maunoury's Army consisted of the VII. Corps 
(14th Division and 63rd Reserve Division), 55th Reserve Division (just 
arrived from the Army of Lorraine), the 61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions 
(of d'Amade's force), a Moroccan infantry brigade, two battalions of 
Chasseurs des Alpes and a Provisional Cavalry Division (General Cornulier- 
Luciniere's) formed from Sordet's Cavalry Corps, the rest of this corps 
having gone back to Versailles to refit. The 56th Reserve Division arrived 
during the evening of the 29th August. 

VOL. I 225 Q 


the X. Reserve Corps and the greater part of the VII. 
Corps 1 of the Second Army and the 17th Division from the 
inner wing of the First Army, 2 being in superior numbers. 
Meanwhile the outer wing of the German First Army, 
swinging south-westwards, was engaged with General 
Maunoury's Army, and there was heavy fighting at 
Proyart (10 miles south-west of Peronne) and Rosieres 
(6 miles south of Proyart). 

For the British, except the cavalry, much of the 29th 
was a day of rest, devoted to repairing the wear and tear 
of the strenuous days through which they had passed. 

The enemy was by no means wholly inactive on the 
British front. At 5 A.M. the 16th Lancers were driven out 
of Jussy on the Crozat Canal by infantry and machine 
guns, 8 but they held their own until the bridge over the 
canal had been destroyed, when they and the rest of the 
3rd Cavalry Brigade fell back slowly to Chauny (6J miles 
W.S.W. of La Fere). Before 8 A.M. reports came in that 
German infantry and guns were crossing the Somme at 
Pargny and Re"thencourt well away to the north; 4 and 
soon after that hour the 2nd Cavalry Brigade lying north 
of Smith-Dorrien was engaged with a force of all arms 5 
advancing from the direction of Ham. The brigade 
retired with deliberation to Guiscard, which it reached at 
11 A.M., and thence went southward. To support it, the 
9th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division took position at 
Crissoles (3 miles north of Noyon), and the 4th Division 
sent a battalion to Muirancourt (2 miles north of Crissolles). 
By 1 P.M. it was apparent that nothing serious was going 
forward, the general trend of von Kluck's Army was still 
decidedly to the west of south, and von Biilow was engaged 
with the French. At 4.15 P.M., in accordance with G.H.Q. 
instructions, General Smith-Dorrien issued orders for a 
short withdrawal of his force, to bring all of it south of 
the Oise and nearer to the I. Corps. At 6 P.M. the 
Map 14. troops began their march : the 3rd Division to Cuts, the 
5th to Carlepont, and the 4th to the north of Carlepont, 
leaving a rear guard of the llth Infantry Brigade north of 

1 One infantry brigade and an artillery Abteilung (three batteries) were 
still before Maubeuge. 

a Just relieved from the investment of Maubeuge. 
8 Possibly Jdger, of the /. Cavalry Corps. 

4 The 18th Division according to von Kluck's map. 

5 This according to Vogel was part of the Guard Cavalry Division ; 
the I. Cavalry Corps was filling the gap between the First and Second 


the Oise. All three divisions reached their destinations 29 Aug. 
between 9 P.M. and midnight. The 1st and 2nd Cavalry 1914 - 
Brigades followed them ; and thus by midnight practically 
the whole of General Smith-Dorrien's force had crossed to 
the south of the Oise. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, on its 
right front, billeted for the night at Chauny, and the 4th 
Cavalry Brigade five miles west of Noyon, at Dives. This 
south-eastward movement of the II. Corps reduced the 
gap between it and the I. Corps to seven miles. 

Throughout this day the I. Corps enjoyed undisturbed 
repose. During the afternoon General Joffre visited Sir 
John French at Compiegne, whither G.H.Q. had moved 
from Noyon on the 28th. In view of the general situation, 
he was most anxious that the B.E.F. should remain in line 
with the French Armies on either flank, so that he could 
hold the Rheims Amiens line, which passed through La 
Fere, and attack from it. 1 

Sir John French, however, in view of the exertions of 
the British Army, and its losses in officers and men, and 
even more in material, was equally anxious to withdraw 
and rest it for a few days, in order to make good defects. 
He did not consider that it was in condition to attack ; 
but it was not until 9 P.M., 2 after the success of the 
Germans on the left of the French Fifth Army was 
evident, that he issued orders for further retreat to the Sketch 5. 
line Soissons Compiegne, behind the Aisne. Maps 3 

The German situation at that time was roughly as 
follows : The Second and First Armies formed a gigantic 
wedge, of which the apex lay a little south of Ham : the 
Second Army, under von Billow, extending from Etreaupont 
on the Oise nearly to Ham, with its front towards south 
and south-east ; and the First Army, under von Kluck, 
from Ham to Albert, with its front to the south-west. Both 
of these Armies were already weaker than the German 
Higher Command had originally intended. The First 
Army had been obliged to leave the ///. Reserve and IX. 
Reserve Corps to invest Antwerp ; and upon this day the 
Guard Reserve Corps of the Second Army, as well as the 
XI. Corps of the Third Army (relieved by the fall of 
Namur), after marching back to Aix la Chapelle, began to 
move by rail to the Russian front. Further, the Second 
Army had to leave the VII. Reserve Corps and part of the 
VII. Corps to invest Maubeuge. 

Without the B.E.F. to fill the gap between his Fifth 

1 See p. 218. 2 Appendix 19. 


and Sixth Armies, even if their initial operations were 
successful, General Joffre felt that he could not, in view 
of the general situation, risk fighting on the Rheims 
Amiens line. 1 His orders for the retirement of the Fifth 
Army were issued during the night of the 29th/30th, and 
began to take effect about 8.30 A.M. on the 30th, when, 
after a very successful counter-stroke, the French I. and 
X. Corps began to withdraw. His message to Sir John 
French, sent off at 8.45 A.M., said that he had given General 
Lanrezac orders to place his Army behind the Serre (which 
flows into the Oise at La Fere). The intention was to 
make a general retirement, avoiding any decisive action, 
but without giving up ground unnecessarily, and he pointed 
out that it was of the highest interest that the B.E.F. 
should keep in constant liaison with the Fifth Army, " so 
" as to profit by favourable opportunities and administer 
" to the enemy other severe lessons of the kind that he had 
" received on the previous day." 


Sketches Sir John French had left the time of starting to be 
4 & 5 - settled by his corps commanders ; the I. Corps began its 
4 marcn southwards at 3 A.M., covered on the eastern flank 
by the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and on the western by the 
3rd. The day was intensely hot, and in the Forest of St. 
Gobain the air was stifling. Since crossing the Somme, 
the British had passed into a rugged country of deep wood- 
lands, steep hills, narrow valleys and dusty roads. Severe 
gradients and crowds of refugees multiplied checks on the 
way ; and, what made the march more distressing, the I. 
Corps was ordered in consequence of a false alarm of a 
German force moving from Noyon towards the south of 
Laon to turn north-east, so as to cover the left flank of 
the Fifth Army. Such was the exhaustion of the men 
that it was necessary to curtail the march, and the 1st 
Division was halted for the night some eight miles north 
of Soissons, with its head at Allemant ; and the 2nd 
Division a little to the south-west of it about Pasly. The 
II. Corps, together with the 4th Division and the 19th 
Infantry Brigade the two latter from this day constituted 

1 Hanotaux, vol. viii. p. 134, gives as the reason for the further 
retreat that the Fifth Army was " uncovered on the left by the precipitate 
" retirement of the British and on the right by the withdrawal of the 
" Fourth Army from which it was separated by a gap of 20 miles watched 
" by only a few squadrons." 


the III. Corps under General Pulteney after a few hours' 30 Aug. 
rest on conclusion of its night march, 1 continued its move- 1914 - 
ment south-east, and halted on the Aisne about Attichy, 
the llth Infantry Brigade having been skilfully withdrawn 
without mishap by Brigadier-General Hunter- Weston from 
its rear-guard position beyond the Oise. The 5th and 
3rd Cavalry Brigades lay for the night at Vauxaillon, 
between the 1st and 2nd Divisions, and at Fontenoy on 
the Aisne, between the I. and II. Corps, respectively ; the 
1st, 2nd and 4th Cavalry Brigades were reunited under the 
hand of the divisional commander, on the left of the Army, 
round Compiegne. The gap between the two wings of the 
B.E.F. was thus reduced to six miles. 

There was practically no interference from the enemy 
on this day. The rear guard of the Cavalry Division was 
slightly engaged by Uhlans at 8 A.M., and two parties of 
Engineers were fired on whilst engaged in destroying the 
bridges over the Oise, with the result that the bridge at 
Bailly was left undemolished. 2 

General Lanrezac had little difficulty in carrying out his 
retirement, though the Germans, apparently emboldened 
by news from their aviators that the French were with- 
drawing, looked for a time as if they meant to continue 
the attack, particularly on his left wing ; but by noon the 
movement was well under way, and the Germans seemed 
content to let him go. 3 

General Maunoury's Army had also received orders 
to retire, and had fallen back, after sharp fighting, from 
the Avre south-westward to a line from Estrees St. 
Denis (where his right was within five miles of the British 
at Compiegne) to Quiry. Von Kluck had shown signs of a 
change of direction, for his left or inner wing had wheeled 
nearly due south, though his right was still, for the present, 
moving south-west upon Amiens. This seemed to indicate, 
though as yet the movement was too imperfectly developed 
to make it certain, that von Kluck either considered 
Maunoury's force to be for the moment powerless for any 
offensive action, or that he considered himself to have 
gained the position that he desired for the envelopment of 

1 See p. 227. 

2 A second attempt was made to destroy this bridge after dark ; but 
Major Barstow and the men of his party were killed by a volley at about 
fifteen yards' range, fired, according to Vogel, by the cyclists of the Guard 

3 The Second Army was given a rest day on the 31st (Biilow, p. 44, 
Kluck, p. 76). 


the western flank of the Allied Army. The British Army 
he reckoned, as the German official bulletins testify, to 
have been thoroughly beaten on the 26th and following 
days; and, as from a captured letter he heard of Sir 
John French's anxiety to give it rest, 1 his appreciation 
in this respect was less faulty than it may since have 
seemed. If Maunoury's force could also be dismissed as 
negligible, there was nothing to hinder von Kluck from 
wheeling south-east against the open left flank of the 
French Fifth Army, annihilating it in conjunction with 
von Billow, and then rolling up the French line from west 
to east. 2 

General Joffre, for his part, on realizing that his counter- 
stroke at Guise had not wholly fulfilled his hopes, and as 
the British Commander-in-Chief had expressed his inability 
on the 29th to take the offensive, came to the conclusion 
that he must yield yet further ground before he could 
hope to deliver another and decisive one. He therefore 
ordered General Maunoury to fall back to the line from 
Senlis, through Creil and Clermont, to Beauvais (35 miles 
west of Compiegne), and requested Sir John French to 
continue to fill the gap between General Lanrezac and 
General Maunoury. The Field-Marshal agreed, and at 
5.15 P.M. issued orders 3 for his army to move south-west, 
the I. Corps and 5th Cavalry Brigade to the area about 
Villers Cotterets ; the II. Corps, on the west of the I. 
Corps, to the area Feigneux Bethisy St. Martin Cre*py 
en Valois ; the III. Corps further to the north-west, to the 
area St. Sauveur Verberie, and the Cavalry Division, 
most westerly of all, to the line of the Oise beyond Ver- 
berie. General Allenby was subsequently informed that, as 
the French had closed in on the left, he could use the area 
between the III. Corps and the river. 


Sketch 4. On the 31st, accordingly, the British resumed their 

Maps a, 4 march under the same trying conditions of dust, heat 

& 16 ' and thirst as on the previous day. The I. Corps opened 

the operations with the passage of the Aisne in two 

columns, at Soissons and just west of it. The transport 

was often in difficulties, owing to the steep gradients of 

1 Kluck, p. 81. 

2 Billow had called upon Kluck for this very purpose. See p. 233. 

3 Appendix 20. 


the roads to the south of the river, and the scarcity of 31 Aug. 
water everywhere was a great trial both to men and horses. 1914 ' 
Once again the infantry was wholly untroubled by the 
enemy the men of the 6th Infantry Brigade actually had 
time for a bathe in the Aisne , and the cavalry rear 
guards, which covered the march, were never really 
pressed. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade had to keep some 
Uhlans at a distance when crossing the Aisne 6 miles west 
of Soissons at Fontenoy ; and heads of German columns 
were reported at Noyon and south of it on the road to 
Compiegne. 1 In this quarter, west of the Oise, the 3rd 
Hussars (4th Cavalry Brigade) were in touch with hostile 
patrols from daybreak onward, the enemy's force gradu- 
ally increasing until it drew the whole regiment into 
action. The fight was, however, broken off without 
difficulty, and at noon, the 3rd Hussars retired, having 
suffered trifling loss and killed a good many troopers of 
the German 3rd Hussars the divisional cavalry of the 
German ///. Corps which, by a curious coincidence, were 
opposed to them. 

The heat of the day, the difficulty of the country and 
the exhaustion of the troops, however, compelled the 
greater part of the Army to stop short of their intended 
destinations. The I. Corps halted for the night on Map 16. 
the northern, instead of on the western side, of the Forest 
of Villers Cotte"rets, midway between it and the river 
Aisne : 1st Division around Missy, 2nd Division around 
Laversine. The left of the French Fifth Army was near 
Vauxaillon, 12 miles to the north. 

The II. Corps halted at Coyolles, south-west of Villers 
Cotterets, and at Crpy en Valois : 5th Division on the 
east, 3rd Division on the west. 

The III. Corps, after a flank march through the Forest 
of Compiegne, reached its allotted area, at the south- 
western corner of the forest about Verberie, but at a 
late hour, some units not taking up their billets before 
10.15 P.M. It was separated by a gap of some five miles 
from the nearest troops of the II. Corps at Crpy, but in 
touch with the French on its left through part of the 
Cavalry Division. 

The 5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades halted in the same 
area as the I. Corps. Of the other brigades, the 4th was 

1 The German 111. Corps crossed the Oise in two columns at Noyon 
and Ribecourt, and v. d. Marwitz's cavalry crossed near Compiegne 
(see Kluck's map). 


with the III. Corps at Verberie, and the 2nd west of it at 
Chevrieres, in touch with the French Sixth Army, which, 
on this evening, reached the Chevrieres Beauvais line. 
The 1st Cavalry Brigade and L Battery R.H.A. on the 
western flank of the Army had moved out soon after dawn 
on the 31st from Compiegne on the road towards Amiens, 
and had remained halted for a considerable time, on the 
watch for German troops advancing in that quarter. 
Seeing no sign of any, the brigade, after a wide sweep 
westward, recrossed the Oise to Verberie, and made its 
way to Ne"ry, there to form a link though it could not fill 
up the gap between the II. and III. Corps. It did not 
reach its destination until dusk, and L Battery did not 
join it until half an hour later. 

Aerial reconnaissance upon this day confirmed the 
fact that von Kluck had reached the limit of his western 
advance, and was wheeling south-eastward, covering his 
southern flank with his cavalry. 1 At least two cavalry 
divisions were known to have reached the Oise during the 
afternoon of the 31st ; and it appeared that three actually 
crossed the river between Noyon and Compiegne, two of 
which were reported to be moving east upon Vauxaillon, 
while the third was passing through Bailly (8 miles 
north-east of Compiegne) at 2.30 P.M. 2 The capture of 
a trooper of the German 8th Hussars, by the 2/Royal 
Welch Fusiliers after a brush with a German patrol towards 
dusk to the north-west of Verberie, seemed to indi- 
cate the presence of the German J$h Cavalry Division in 
this quarter. A heavy German column, reckoned to be 
ten thousand strong, was also reported to have reached 
Gournay (about eight miles north-west of Compiegne) at 
3 P.M., and to be moving south. 8 A captured order issued 
to the 8th Division of the German IV. Corps from Beau- 
court (14 miles south-east of Amiens) at 6.45 A.M. on the 
31st, revealed the project which was in von Kluck's mind 
at the time. The order gives the information that the 
French troops (Maunoury's) on the Avre had been defeated 

1 For the German movements see next page. 

8 According to von Kluck, on the 31st von der Marwitz's three cavalry 
divisions (2nd, 4th and 9th) crossed the Oise at Thourotte, and thence 
marched through the Forest of Laigle to Attichy on the Aisne, but 
"Deutsche Kavallerie" (p. 76 and map) puts them at night about six 
miles south of Compiegne. Von Richthofen's two divisions (Guard and 
6th) reached Noyon on the 30th, and moved on the 31st across the British 
front via Bailly and Ribecourt to Vauxaillon and Soissons. This latter 
statement is confirmed by Vogel. 

8 This would appear to be the 5th Division of the III. Corps. 


on the 29th and had withdrawn ; that the British were 29-31 Aug. 
retreating south-eastward (sic) ; that von Biilow had 1914 - 
defeated at Guise the French Fifth Army, large bodies 
of which were retiring through La Fere ; and sets forth 
that the task of the German First Army is to cut off its 
retreat. " Again, therefore, we must call upon the troops 
for forced marches." * However, at the moment, the one 
thing clear to Sir John French was that the German First 
Army, which had practically left the British Army alone 
since the 26th, was again closing in upon it in great force, 
and that he must avoid serious collision with it until the 
time for General Joffre's counter-stroke should be ripe. 
He therefore issued his orders 2 for the retreat to be con- 
tinued on the morrow. 


The movements of the German right wing on the Sketch 5. 
30th and 31st August had a decisive effect on the campaign. J*?? 8 * 4 ' 

i f i -i 1.11 o 15 & 16. 

Instead of pursuing his march towards the lower Seme, 
as ordered by O.H.L. on the 28th, and making a wide 
sweep which would have caught in it General Maunoury's 
Army and the B.E.F., von Kluck wheeled his Army south- 
eastwards towards the Oise, in response to von Billow's 
request that he should help him to exploit the supposed 
success in the battle of Guise and finish off the French 
Fifth Army. The messages are of interest. 

Von Kluck says : " At 5.55 P.M. on 30th a wireless 
" message was received from Second Army Headquarters : 
" ' Enemy decisively beaten to-day ; strong forces re- 
" ' tiring on La Fere. The British, who were barring the 
" ' Oise south-west of La Fere, are also retreating, some in 
" ' a southerly, some in a south-easterly direction.' It was 
" followed by a second message at 6.30 P.M. ' To gain 
" ' the full advantages of the victory a wheel inwards of 
" ' the First Army, pivoted on Chauny, towards the line 
" * La Fere Laon is highly desirable.' ' 

Von Biilow does not give these messages, but says that 
on the 29th, " The First Army was asked by wireless to 
"support the Second Army on the 30th, and at 7.5 P.M. 

1 Hauptmann Bloem relates further that the three battalion com- 
manders of his regiment made a protest to the regimental commander 
with regard to the excessive marching and were met by the brief reply 
" Sweat saves blood." 

2 Appendix 21. 


" on the 30th the following information was received from 
" the First Army : ' Right wing of First Army has thrown 
" ' the enemy over the Avre. Will advance to-morrow 
" ' against the Oise section Compiegne Chauny.' ' Von 
Kluck likewise does not give this message, but admits that 
" during the evening of the 30th August O.H.L. was 
"informed that the First Army had wheeled round to- 
" wards the Oise and would advance on the 31st by 
"Compiegne and Noyon to exploit the success of the 
66 Second Army." 

The German Supreme Command concurred in the 
proposed move, replying when it was reported : " The 
" movement begun by the First Army is in accordance with 
"the wishes of O.H.L." Fortunately von Kluck had 
wasted time by his thrust in the air westwards after 
Le Cateau and his assistance to von Billow came too 

The leading corps of the German First Army, the 
IX. and III., managed to cross the Oise between Chauny 
and Bailly on the 31st and reached the line Vezaponin 
Vic Attichy, 12 miles beyond, with the //. Cavalry Corps 
on their right front ; the IV. and //. swung round behind 
them to the line Mareuil Tricot Maignelay, west and 
abreast of Noyon, with the IV. Reserve still further in rear, 
in and south of Amiens. Thus, on that day, German corps 
were moving south-eastwards north of the Aisne, whilst the 
B.E.F. was marching more or less south-westwards on the 
other side of that river. Von Kluck, therefore, thinking 
by " extraordinary forced marches " to outflank the 
Allies, 1 was actually advancing into the net that Joffre 
had in preparation for him. 2 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 104. 

2 The following description of von Kluck at Lassigny (12 miles north 
of Compiegne) on the 30th August 1914, by M. Albert Fabre, Conseiller 
a la Cour d'appel de Paris (given in M. Hanotaux's " Histoire illustree de 
la Guerre de 1914," Tome 8, p. 158), seems worthy of quotation. The 
general had dejeuner at M. Fabre's villa and gave him a " safeguard " 
for the house signed by his own hand : 

" Bientdt, un mouvement se produisit parmi les officiers qui se rangerent 
' devant la porte de la propriete. Une automobile s'arreta. Un omcier 

* d'allure impressionnante et arrogante en descendit. II s'avan$a seul 
' jusqu'au milieu du terre-plein de la villa. II etait grand, majestueux, il 
' avait le visage rase et ravag6, les traits durs, le regard effrayant. II tenait, 
' a la main droite, un fusil de soldat ; sa main gauche etait appuyee sur la 
'crosse d'un revolver d'ordonnance. II fit plusieurs tours sur lui-meme 

* en frappant le sol de la crosse de son fusil et s'arreta dans une pose 

* th6atrale. Personne ne semblait oser 1'approcher. Le personnage avait 

* 1'air veritablement terrible. J'eus la vision d'Attila. C'etait le trop 
' fameux von Kluck." 


The German Second Army rested on the 31st after 31 Aug. 
its battle at Guise on the previous two days, as already 1914< 
related. 1 

1 Hauptmann Brinckmann of the Second Army staff came over and 
reported to the First Army, that the Second Army " was exhausted by the 
battle of Guise and unable to pursue " (Kuhl's " Marne," p. 109). Billow 
says : " On the 81st the troops of the Second Army were placed in positions 
of readiness for the attack on La Fere " (p. 44). 





(See Sketches 4 & 5 ; Maps 4, 17, 18) 

Sketch 4. G.H.Q. operation orders 1 sent out at 8.50 P.M. on the 
Maps 4 & 3i s t August from Dammartin en Goele gave the information 
that the enemy appeared to have completed his westerly 
movement and to be wheeling to the south, and that large 
columns were advancing in a general south or south- 
easterly direction on Noyon Compiegne, covered by at 
least two cavalry divisions which had reached the Oise 
that afternoon. The following movements towards the 
south-west, marches of some ten to fourteen miles, if 
all divisions reached their destinations on the 31st, were 
ordered to be carried out next day : 

The I. Corps to move to the area La Ferte Milon 
Betz ; the II. Corps to Betz Nanteuil ; the III. Corps 
to Nanteuil Baron ; and the Cavalry Division to Baron 
Mont 1'Eveque. Special instructions were given that 
the rear guard of the III. Corps was to reach a line drawn 
east and west through Nery by 6 A.M. ; but, owing to the 
lateness of the hour at which many units arrived at their 
billets, General Pulteney was obliged to represent that 
this was impossible. In obedience to the spirit of the 
order, however, he reported that the transport of his 
corps would move off at 1 A.M. 

The night passed quietly, with rather less than the 
usual disturbances and alarms, and there was no indication 
that there would be contact with the enemy next day. 
Several small actions, however, did take place on the 1st 
September. They might be dismissed in a few words, 

1 Appendix 21. 


were it not that they show that the British were more i Sept. 
than able to hold their own when fortune brought them 1914 - 
to grips with the enemy. 

Dawn broke with dense mist, presaging another day 
of excessive heat. The 1st Cavalry Brigade and L Battery 
at Nery had been ordered to be ready to resume their 
march at 4.30 A.M., but, since it was impossible to see 
anything two hundred yards away, this was counter- 
manded, and they were directed to stand fast until 5 A.M. 
The men were busy preparing their breakfasts and watering 
their horses when, at 5.30 A.M., the mist being as thick 
as ever, a patrol of the llth Hussars returned with the 
report that it had ridden into a body of German cavalry 
in the fog, and had been hunted back to Nery. Im- 
mediately afterwards high - explosive shells burst over 
the village, and there was a roar of guns, machine guns 
and rifle fire from the heights, little more than six hundred 
yards distant, that overlook the eastern side of the village. 
The horses of the Bays took fright and galloped down 
the road to the north. The battery was in mass, with 
the horses hooked in and poles down ; men and horses 
began to fall at once under German fire, and the battery 
commander was knocked over and temporarily disabled 
whilst hurrying back from brigade headquarters. In his 
absence, Captain Bradbury, with the help of the other 
officers and of such men as were not busy with the horses, 
unlimbered three guns and man-handled them round so 
as to reply to the German batteries which were taking 
him in flank. One gun was almost instantly put out of 
action by a direct hit. The other two opened fire, but 
had hardly done so before the gun under Lieut. Giffard 
was silenced, he and every man of his detachment being 
killed or wounded. 

The remaining two subalterns now joined Captain 
Bradbury at the third gun, and immediately afterwards 
Lieut. Campbell was killed, but the one gun remained in 
action against the German twelve with good effect. In 
vain the enemy concentrated his fire on it ; he could not 
silence it. Meantime, the three cavalry regiments had 
manned the eastern face of the village, secured the northern 
and southern exits and opened fire, particularly with their 
machine guns. The German cavalrymen pushed their 
way dismounted to within five hundred yards of the village, 
but no nearer. Towards 6 A.M. Brigadier-General Briggs, 
after strengthening his own right, ordered two squadrons 


of the 5th Dragoon Guards, his last remaining reserve, 
to attack the enemy's right flank. They accordingly 
galloped northwards and then wheeling to the east, dis- 
mounted and pushed in to close range. Whilst the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade was thus holding the German Jfih Cavalry 
Division, in response to General Briggs' call for assistance, 
just as the mist began to thin in the morning sun, the 
4th Cavalry Brigade and I Battery came on the scene 
from St. Vaast on the north-west, followed by a com- 
posite battalion of the Warwickshire and Dublins of the 
10th Infantry Brigade from Verberie from the same direc- 
tion, and the 1 /Middlesex from Saintines in the north. 
Four guns of I Battery unlimbered two thousand yards 
south-west of the German position. As it did so, the fire 
of L Battery ceased ; and for good reason. For some time 
its fire had been desultory. Lieut. Munday had been 
several times wounded, and man after man was struck down 
until there only remained Captain Bradbury, who was still 
untouched, and Sergt. Nelson, who had been wounded. 
Battery -Sergeant -Major Dorrell then joined them, and 
immediately Captain Bradbury, whilst fetching ammuni- 
tion from a wagon twenty yards off, fell mortally wounded. 
The survivors continued to fire until the last round was 
expended, and then but not till then L Battery was 

I Battery opened fire about 8 A.M. and speedily silenced 
the German artillery, and the enemy began to draw off. 
He made an attempt to save his guns, but the teams were 
caught by I Battery, and the men trying to man-handle 
the guns back were shot down by machine-gun fire ; 
nevertheless, four out of the twelve were carried off, only, 
as will be seen, to fall into British hands next day. The 
1 /Middlesex under Major Rowley followed by a squadron 
of the llth Hussars charged into the batteries, to find that 
there was not a live German left near them. The Hussars 
thereupon pressed on in pursuit for a mile until they were 
recalled, capturing seventy-eight prisoners belonging to 
every regiment of the J^ih Cavalry Division. By 8.45 A.M. 
the action was over. 

There can be no doubt that the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
was taken by surprise ; but it is not less certain that the 
German 4th Cavalry Division was equally unaware of the 
near presence of a British force. Indeed, in an intercepted 
German wireless message, it was reported that the division 
had been surprised in its bivouac at Ne*ry and surrounded 


by considerable hostile forces. 1 Captain Bradbury died 1 Sept. 
very shortly after he was hit, and never received the 1914 - 
Victoria Cross which was awarded to him, to his gallant 
companion, Sergeant Nelson, and to Battery-Sergeant- 
Major Dorrell. The casualties of the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
did not exceed one hundred and thirty-five officers and 
men killed and wounded ; and of these five officers and 
forty-nine men belonged to L Battery. Among the killed 
was Colonel Ansell of the 5th Dragoon Guards, who had 
already distinguished himself at Elouges. The German 
casualties are unknown. They can hardly have been 
fewer, and were probably more numerous, than the British. 
This was the first encounter with the enemy on the 1st 

September. 2 

1 For German movements see p. 246. 

* A German account of Nery by an officer of the 18th Dragoon Regi- Map 4. 
ment (of the 4th Cavalry Division) has appeared in " Mecklenburgs S6hne 
im Weltkriege," Heft 13. He states that the three divisions of von der 
Marwitz's Cavalry Corps were sent forward at 4 A.M. on the 31st to recon- 
noitre towards Paris, and that his division marched without any halt 
worth mentioning ; this agrees with the statements of prisoners, who said 
that they had made a forced march of 26 hours to get to Nery. At dawn 
the advanced guard reported a British bivouac at Nery, and General von 
Gamier at first ordered the division to deploy and charge, but, the ground 
being found unsuitable, this was changed to an attack on foot, which 
progressed to within 500 yards of the village. British reinforcements then 
came up and " we held our ground against greatly superior numbers until 
** 2 P.M. (sic). We then had to withdraw or be destroyed. The brigades 
" were therefore directed to get through independently as best they could." 
Nothing is said about the guns. The Dragoon brigade apparently fled 
back into the forest of Compiegne. After dark it marched to the south- 
west (through Baron, according to inhabitants) and hid in the woods 15 
miles south-west of Nery for 30 hours. On the 3rd September it escaped 
via Ermenonville back to Nanteuil. The traces found by the B.E.F. are 
noticed in the next chapter. 

According to " Deutsche Kavallerie," pp. 78, 79, the 4th Cavalry Division 
at first withdrew eastward, but, hearing the sound of firing at St. Sauveur 
in the north and at Crepy en Valois to the east (in actions described later 
in the text) decided that the path to safety lay to the south, and the 
brigades moved independently in that direction with the hope of concealing 
themselves in the forest and of doubling back north when the Allies had 
passed. This they actually accomplished, though at the cost of their re- 
maining guns and of a considerable amount of transport and equipment. 
The brigades hid, without food or ammunition, in the great woods on either 
side of Rozieres (just north-east of Baron) and saw the British columns 
march down the main road through Baron. " On account of want of 
" ammunition, an attack of the isolated brigades on the numerically 
" superior infantry columns was not possible." They remained in hiding 
until the afternoon of the 2nd September. 

Von Kluck merely states that after a successful surprise the 4th Cavalry 
Division became seriously engaged with superior forces, and incurred heavy 
losses. Von Kuhl (" Marne," p. 121) says that it suffered so heavily that on 
the 3rd September it was not reassembled and was not able to advance 
on the 4th with the rest of the corps. Perhaps this is the reason why it 
remained on the Ourcq with the IV. Reserve Corps. Altogether, the 



Maps 4 Further east, about Mermont and the ground north 
& 17 ' of Crepy en Valois, the outpost line of the 5th Division, 
held by the 13th Infantry Brigade, was attacked at 6 A.M. 
by mounted troops of the IV. Corps and by Jdger. 1 The 
pressure did not become serious until 10 A.M., when the 
5th Division, which had delayed its march in consequence 
of the fighting at Ne*ry, began to retire ; it then fell chiefly 
upon the West Kents on the left of the line, where the 
Germans delivered an infantry attack from Bethancourt 
(4 miles due north of Crepy). The West Kents were 
supported by a section of the 119th Battery, which came 
into action within one hundred yards of the firing line, 
opened at fourteen hundred yards' range and, firing one 
hundred and fifty rounds in five minutes, brought the 
Germans to a standstill. By noon the outposts having 
become rear guard had fallen back to the south of Crepy ; 
the Germans did not follow except with cavalry patrols, 
and all trouble ceased on this part of the line. On the 
right flank, the 2nd Duke of Wellington's holding the 
cross roads at " Raperie " (1 mile N.N.E. of Crepy), were 
supported by the two remaining batteries of the XXVII. 
Brigade R.F.A. ; and under cover of these guns the 
brigadier was able to withdraw his battalions with little 


Maps 4 Still further to the east, the I. Corps marched at 4 A.M. 

& 17 - by two roads through the forest of Villers Cotterets. The 
1st Division from Missy took the Soissons road, which 
skirts the eastern side of Villers Cotterets, and turns thence 
south-eastward on La Ferte" Milon. 

The 2nd Division, on the west of the 1st, moved by the 
road which passes through Vivieres 2 and Rond de la Reine 
and the western side of Villers Cotterets south-west upon 
Pisseleux and Boursonne. 

1st September was decidedly to the disadvantage of the German cavalry, 
for, as will be seen, the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions were unable to advance, 
far less pursue as ordered (see footnote 2, p. 246). 

1 According to von Kluck the IV. Corps was in action north of Crepy en 
Valois later in the afternoon, and the first contact was with the five Jdger 
battalions of von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps ("Deutsche Kavallerie," 
p. 77). 

8 Spelt Viviers on some maps. 


The 5th Cavalry Brigade covered the right rear from i Sept. 
the region of Montgobert, and the 3rd Cavalry Brigade 1914 - 
the left rear from Mortefontaine and Taillefontaine, both 
outside the forest. 

Here again it was the western flank that was first 
engaged, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade being attacked on 
reaching Taillefontaine (5 miles N.N.W. of Villers Cotterets) 
by a force of all arms advancing from the north. 1 As the 
brigade drew back to the north-western corner of the Forest 
of Villers Cotterets, the 4th Hussars were continuously 
engaged until past noon, and lost their commanding officer, 
Lt.- Colonel Hogg, in the sharp fighting in the woodlands. 

A little to the east of Taillefontaine the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade was covering the retirement of the 2nd Division, 
with the Irish Guards and 2/Coldstream, under Lieutenant- 
Colonel the Hon. George Morris of the former regiment, in 
position between Vivieres and Puiseux, and the 2/Grenadier 
and 3/Coldstream in second line at Rond de la Reine. 
About 10 A.M. Colonel Morris's troops were attacked by a 
force of all arms moving from north-west to south-east. 
The 9th Battery replied effectively to the German guns, and 
the firing so far died away that Colonel Morris sent back 
the 2/Coldstream with orders to retire to the railway north 
of Villers Cotterets, and prepared to follow them with the 
Irish Guards. Just then, however, he received a verbal 
order from the brigadier not to fall back too fast, since it 
was intended to give the main body of the division a long 
halt from 10 A.M. till 1 P.M. The 2/Coldstream were already 
gone past recall, owing to the density of the forest, but the 
Irish Guards stood fast, and, about 10.45 A.M., were again 
and more seriously attacked. A company of the Grenadiers 
was sent forward to reinforce them, but before the Irish 
Guards could be extricated, the Germans opened a direct 
attack upon the western front and flank of the second line. 
This line was drawn up along a grass ride which followed 
the highest ridge in the forest, and passes from west to 
east through the open space called Rond de la Reine to 
another open space, about a mile distant, named Croix de 
Belle Vue. The 3/Coldstream were on the west of Rond 
de la Reine, being widely extended so as to block the 
numerous rides that run from north to south towards 

1 Probably the advanced guard of the ///. Corps. " Schlachten und 
Gefechte " states that the ///. Corps and the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions 
fought at Villers Cotterets, on the 1st September. " Deutsche Kavallerie," 
p. 77, however, states the two cavalry divisions were in action near Ver- 
berie and spent the night in two villages north of it. 



Haramont, and therefore had wide intervals between com- 
panies. The 2/Grenadiers were on the right. The Germans 
soon detected the gaps between the companies of the Cold- 
stream and penetrated between them ; but the battalion, 
though compelled to fall back, did so very slowly, each 
isolated party fighting vigorously as best it could. The 
Grenadiers were in like case, and behaved in like manner, 
and both battalions were still close to their original positions 
when company by company the Irish Guards at last 
joined them. Colonel Morris was killed early in this first 
serious engagement of his regiment. Brigadier-General 
Scott-Kerr was severely wounded while leaving Rond de 
la Reine, the Germans having brought up a machine gun 
which raked the broad main ride. Thus there was no one 
for a time in general command ; but the three British 
battalions were so much intermixed and the fighting in the 
woods was unavoidably so confused, that little or no 
control was possible. However, Grenadiers, Coldstream 
and Irish fought their way back, contesting every inch of 
ground, to Villers Cotte*rets, the 3/Coldstream retiring on 
their second battalion, which was now on the railway line 
just to the north of the town, and the remainder further to 
the east. The 17th Battery was in position north of Villers 
Cotte"rets to support them, but did not fire, the Guards 
having beaten off their assailants for the present. It was 
by now about 2 P.M. 

Meanwhile the 6th Infantry Brigade had been halted 
about a mile south of Pisseleux, immediately south of 
Villers Cott6rets, to cover the retreat of the Guards, two 
companies of the Royal Berkshire being deployed upon 
either flank of the 9th Battery. The 5th Infantry Brigade 
had been ordered by 2nd Division Headquarters to entrench 
in echelon a little further to the south-west, to serve as a 
rallying point for both brigades. Through the 5th In- 
fantry Brigade the Guards retired, with the 2/Coldstream 
as rear guard ; the 17th Battery moved with them and 
unlimbered on the right of the 9th. Towards 4 P.M. the 
Germans, having apparently moved south-west from 
Villers Cotterets, opened heavy rifle fire from the west of 
the railway, while their horse artillery engaged the British 
batteries. These last, after a sharp duel, were ordered to 
retire ; but the teams of the 17th Battery could not come 
up until the 1 /King's had pushed forward to the western 
side of the railway and effectually checked the advance of 
the German infantry and artillery. Fighting lasted until 


6 P.M., when the King's withdrew, under cover of the i Sept. 
2/Coldstream, and the action came to an end. The number 1914 - 
of the enemy engaged was very superior to the British. 1 
The fight cost the 4th (Guards) Brigade over three hundred 
officers and men, and the 6th Infantry Brigade one hundred 
and sixty. Two platoons of the Grenadiers were sur- 
rounded and killed at Rond de la Reine, fighting to the last 
man. Some weeks later it was ascertained from prisoners 
that the Germans had suffered very heavily in this 
affair, having lost all sense of direction and fired on each 


During these clashes of the rear guards, the main body sketch 4. 
of the British Army tramped on through intense heat Ma P 18 - 
until far into the evening. The 1st Division reached its 
halting place about La Ferte Milon, 16 miles from its 
starting point, between 7 and 9 P.M. The 2nd Division and 
the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades arrived at Betz (8 miles 
west of La Ferte Milon), and the villages to the east of it, 
after a nineteen-mile march, from one to two hours later. Of 
the II. Corps, the 3rd Division marched quite untroubled to 
the villages south-west of Betz, while the 5th Division, 
with greater precautions, but equally unhindered after 
the first bickering of the morning, came into Nanteuil 
(7 miles west of Betz) between 7.30 and 9 P.M. 

On the extreme west, after the fight at Nery, the llth Map 4. 
Infantry Brigade began to withdraw from St. Sauveur 
(3 miles east of Verberie), the 12th Infantry Brigade being 
already at 9.30 A.M. in position 6 miles south of St. 
Sauveur between Mont Cornon and Chamicy. At 10 A.M. 
the Germans 2 attacked the I/Somerset L.I. and I/Rifle 
Brigade, which were covering the retirement of the two 
remaining battalions of the llth Infantry Brigade, and 
were beaten off with considerable loss. This ended the 
British fighting in this quarter for the day. At 11 A.M. 
the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Brigades were sent to take up a 
line from Mont Cornon north-westwards to Villeneuve, and 

1 See footnote, p. 241. 

a The advanced guard of the 11. Corps. Von Kluck says that " the 
" 11. Corps, supported by the Cavalry Corps, became involved in heavy 
" fighting for the possession of the important Oise crossings at Verberie and 
"St. Sauveur." The Provisional Division of Sordet's Cavalry Corps and 
some battalions of Chausseurs Alpins, the right of General Maunoury's 
Army, which was also falling back, were engaged at Verberie. 


shortly after noon the 4th Division, passing through them, 
continued its march southward to Fresnoy, Rozieres and 
Map is. Baron, to the west of the 5th Division. The Cavalry 
Division took up its billets to the west of the 4th Division 
along the northern edge of the Forest of Ermenonville 
from Fontaine to Mont 1'Eveque. The march, though 
absolutely unhindered by the enemy, was an anxious one, 
for there were persistent rumours that German cavalry was 
in the Forest of Ermenonville to the south of the British 
Cavalry Division. When the 1 /Rifle Brigade entered 
Rozieres at 7 P.M., they found that three hundred Uhlans 
had just quitted the village in great haste, leaving a machine 
gun and sundry articles of equipment behind them. 1 

During the 31st August several telegrams had passed 
between the Secretary of State for War and the British 
Commander-in- Chief. 2 It appeared to the Cabinet that 
Sir John French had determined to retire so far out of the 
Allied line that he would frustrate their policy of co- 
operating closely with the French and rendering them 
continuous support ; the French President and General 
Joffre seemed also to be under this impression. 3 As it was 
difficult to judge of the situation in London, it was decided 
that Lord Kitchener should himself proceed to France and 
discuss it verbally with the Commander-in-Chief, so as to 
ensure that there would be no break-down in the relations 
between the Chiefs of the French and British Armies. 
Leaving the choice of the meeting place to Sir John French 
who fixed the British Embassy at Paris Lord Kitchener 
left London at 2 A.M. on the 1st September, crossed the 

1 These troops are now known to be the survivors of Nery. Von 
Kluck says that the 4th Cavalry Division " incurred heavy losses at 
Rozieres" (see footnote 2, p. 239). 

2 The telegrams will be found in Appendix 22. 

8 According to M. Poincare's preface to the French edition of Sir 
George Arthur's " Life of Lord Kitchener," p. ix : 

" Field-Marshal French operated with excessive independence, and 
" strove, above all, to maintain his divisions intact. 

" On Sunday, 30th August, General Joffre, uneasy at seeing French 
' hold himself thus aloof, telephoned to M. Millerand, the Minister of 
' War, that he feared the British were not for the moment disposed to 
' fight. . . . Next day, Monday, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armies 
' sent me a liaison officer to beg me to intervene and ensure that Field- 
' Marshal French should not carry out his retreat too rapidly, and should 
' make up his mind to contain the enemy who was on the British front." 

The President then imparted his fears and the request of General 
Joffre to the British Ambassador, Sir Francis Bertie. About 10 P.M. Sir 
Francis came to the filysee with an orderly officer bearing a written 
answer from the British Commander-in-Chief " An answer, unfortun- 
ately, not very conclusive." (This letter cannot be found in the British 
records. Sir John French in his " 1914," p. 95, merely says, " I refused.") 


Channel to Havre in a destroyer, arrived in Paris about i Sept. 
3 P.M., met Sir John shortly after, and spent nearly three 1914 - 
hours with him. 

The result of the interview was recorded in a telegram 
sent by Lord Kitchener to the Government at 7.30 P.M., 
before he started on his return journey. It is as follows : 

" French's troops are now engaged in the fighting line, where 
" he will remain conforming to the movements of the French 
" army, though at the same time acting with caution to avoid 
" being in any way unsupported on his flanks." 

On the 3rd September, Sir John French, having received 
a copy of this telegram, replied : 

"I fully understand your instructions. ... I am in full 
" accord with Joffre and the French." 

The British Commander-in Chief, on returning to 
his headquarters at Dammartin, 20 miles from Paris, at 
6.45 P.M., after the interview with Lord Kitchener, found 
that the day's work had not been unsatisfactory : the 
enemy had been shaken off after several sharp actions, 
and the march, though long and exhausting to the men, 
had finally reunited the British Army for the first time 
since the I. and II. Corps had been separated on the 25th 
August. The Cavalry Division was in touch with the 
French cavalry about Senlis, to the westwards of which, 
to a line from Creil to the vicinity of Beauvais, General 
Maunoury had successfully brought back the French Sixth 
Army. The left of the French Fifth Army was at 
Soissons ; as it had retired due south from Guise and the 
British Expeditionary Force had marched south-west a day 
ahead, the gap between the two was widening. Aerial 
reconnaissance had been difficult until the afternoon, Sketch 5. 
owing to the mist, but from 3 P.M. onward the Flying Ma P w. 
Corps sent in a series of valuable observations, all tending 
to confirm the previous reports of a general wheel of von 
Kluck's army to the south-east. German troops were 
thick upon both banks of the Oise from Noyon southward 
to Verberie ; but the greater number were already on the 
eastern side of the river, and the heads of heavy columns 
had reached Villers Cotterets and Crepy en Valois. These 
seemed to be wheeling to the south. It might be that 
this was due to the direction taken by the roads at these 
two points, but it was judged most important to withdraw 
the British Army out of reach of a night attack. 

Soon after midday the corps commanders had been 


warned by the Chief of the General Staff that the retire- 
ment would be continued on the morrow towards the 
Marne, and roads had been allotted; but at 7 P.M., on 
realizing that the enemy was so near and in such force, 
and that some of his cavalry were actually behind the 
British front, Sir John French decided to continue the 
retreat earlier than he had intended and all the corps were 
ordered to get clear by a night march. 1 At the same time, 
G.H.Q., to which German cavalry escaping from N6ry had 
passed quite close, commenced moving back from Dam- 
martin to Lagny. 


Sketch 5. Turning back to the movements of the Germans during 
{.^e j s {. September, von Kluck, whose Army was now again 
in contact with the British, states that he made another 
effort on that day to catch them up. Their presence on 
his flank had compelled him to desist from his attempt to 
reach and roll up the left flank of the French Fifth Army. 
He therefore ordered his corps to turn south to settle with 
the British. His IX. Corps (less the 17th Division, which 
was still in rear, as it had been co-operating with units of 
the Second Army in the fighting on the Oise south of Mont 
d'Origny on the 30th), III. Corps and IV. Corps having 
crossed the Aisne between Ambleny and Compiegne were 
to press southward ; the 17. Corps was to reach the Oise 
at Verberie ; the //. Cavalry Corps, from near Compiegne, 
was to move eastwards to attack the French in flank via 
Villers Cotterets. 2 

As a result of the day's operations, the 18th Division 
of the IX. Corps reached Longpont (6 miles east of Villers 

The ///. Corps, marching on two roads via Vivieres 
and Taillefontaine, came in contact with the rear guard 

1 Appendix 23. 

2 Kluck, p. 80. These orders seem to have been altered, for " Deutsche 
Kavallerie," p. 76, says that at 4 P.M. on the 31st, von der Marwitz ordered 
" a relentless pursuit " (riicksichtslose Verfolgung) that same night in the 
direction Nanteuil le Haudouin. Led horses, bridging train and telegraph 
vehicles were left behind. The 9th Cavalry Division, followed by the 2nd, 
marching on the main road Compiegne Verberie, was held up at the latter 
place and St. Sauveur east of it, and got no further on the 1st September. 
The 4th Cavalry Division moved east of the others and came to Nery, as we 
have seen. The five Jager battalions of the corps were sent to Crepy en 
Valois and fought there. Kuhl's "Marne," p. 110, states that the //. 
Cavalry Corps was held up at Verberie, and shows it on his map aboi ' 
five miles south of Nery on the night of the lst/2nd September. 


of the British I. Corps near Villers Cotterets, as already i Sept. 
related, and halted there for the night. 1914 - 

The IV. Corps, also marching by two roads Compiegne 
Crepy and Choisy Pierrefonds, halted at Crepy, after 
its fight with the 5th Division. 

The //. Corps, after its action at St. Sauveur with the 
4th Division and later at Verberie with the French, halted 
at the latter place for the night. 

The IV. Reserve Corps, protecting the right flank, 
reached Quinquempoix about twenty-five miles south of 

The general advance made by the German First Army 
on the 1st September, owing to the opposition with which 
it met, was under ten miles, 1 and von Kluck had not struck 
to any purpose either the French Fifth Army or the B.E.F. 

1 See Kluck's map. 



(See Sketches 1, 4, 5 ; Maps 2, 4, 19, 20, 21, 22) 

Sketch 4. THE Army was growing hardened to continued retirements ; 
Maps 4 but in the I. Corps, to make the conditions easier for the 
& 19 ' men, General Haig on the 1st September decided to send 
off by train from Villers Cott6rets about half of the am- 
munition carried by his divisional ammunition columns, 
and to use the fifty empty waggons to carry kits and 
exhausted soldiers. This was an extreme measure, taken 
only after mature deliberation, but it was more than 
justified by the result. 

The next day in pursuance of Sir John French's orders, 
the divisions began moving back between 1 A.M. and 
3 A.M. from their billets between La Ferte Milon and Senlis 
to the line of villages between Meaux and Dammartin, a 
march of some twelve miles. The I. Corps was on the 
right or east, the II. Corps in the centre and the III. Corps 
on the left, with the cavalry on either flank of the force. 
It was absolutely unmolested during this move. The 5th 
Cavalry Brigade, which covered the eastern flank of the 
I. Corps, heard news of a German squadron moving from 
Villers Cottrets upon La Fert6 Milon, but saw nothing. 
The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, on the west of the 5th, Had been 
in motion for fully six hours and was well south of Betz 
before German shells began to burst over the extreme tail 
of the rear guard. An hour or so later six or eight 
German squadrons were seen approaching Bouillancy, the 
next village south of Betz, but were driven off by the fire 
of D and E Batteries. The brigade, being no further 
troubled, then retired slowly to Isles les Villenoy behind 



the right of the I. Corps, where it arrived late in the 2 Sept. 



The three brigades of the Cavalry Division on the left 
of the B.E.F. had been disturbed on the night of the lst/2nd 
September by more than one report that the whole or 
parts of the German ffli Cavalry Division were moving 
south through the Forest of Ermenonville behind the 
British left flank ; and at 2 A.M. the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, 
on the extreme left, had been ordered to march at once 
from Mont 1'Eveque to clear the defile through the forest 
for the division. The brigade moved off at 2.30 A.M., 
taking the road through the forest towards Ermenonville. 
On debouching from the south-eastern edge it found the 
road littered with saddles, equipment and clothing. Some 
enemy force had evidently been in bivouac there and 
had hastily decamped. Reports came in from inhabitants 
that two squadrons of Uhlans were at Ermenonville and 
the next village east of it ; but the British were too late 
to intercept them. The enemy had withdrawn rapidly, 
and in the wooded country it was useless to pursue him. 
Before reaching Ermenonville the brigade came across 
some motor lorries of the 4th Divisional Ammunition 
Column, which had run into a party of German cavalry 
during the night, and also four abandoned German guns, 
the marks upon which proved that they were part of 
the batteries that had been in action at Nery. It may 
be added here that, except for skirmishes of cavalry 
patrols, there was no further contact with the enemy 
during the rest of the retreat. 

Though the march of the British force this day was 
only a short one, averaging about twelve miles, and the 
leading units got in early, it was evening before all were 
in their billets. The heat of the day was intense and 
suffocating, and made marching so exhausting that several 
long halts were ordered. In spite of these, there were 
some cases of heat-stroke. 

The march of the I. Corps proved specially trying, 
since the valley of the Ourcq, for the first half of the march, 
formed an almost continuous defile. During the passage 
of this region, the divisions were directed to piquet the 
high ground as in mountain warfare. The movement 
presented a fine opportunity to a really active and enter- 
prising enemy, but no such enemy appeared. 

An inhabitant of the district has put on record the 
appearance of the British during this period of the retreat : 


" The soldiers, phlegmatic and stolid, march without 
" appearing to hurry themselves ; their calm is in striking 
" contrast to the confusion of the refugees. They pass a 
" night in the villages of the Ourcq. It is a pacific invasion 
" . . . as sportsmen who have just returned from a suc- 
" cessful raid, our brave English eat with good appetite, 
" drink solidly, and pay royally those who present their 
" bills ; . . . and depart at daybreak, silently like ghosts, 
" on the whistle of the officer in charge." x 

Sketch 4. The position of the Army at nightfall on the 2nd 

Map 19. September was as follows : 

the villa g es J ust north of Meaux ' 
3rd Cavalry Brigade . Isles les Villenoy, S.S.W. of Meaux. 

II. Corps . . .In the area Monthyon Montge 


III. Corps . . . Eve Dammartin. 

Cavalry Division . . In the area Thieux Moussy le Vieux 

Le Mesnil Amelot. 

Roughly speaking, therefore, its front extended from 
Meaux north-west to Dammartin. From Dammartin the 
French Provisional Cavalry Division 2 prolonged the line 
to Senlis, from which point north-westward through Creil 
to Mouy and beyond it lay General Maunoury's Sixth 
Army. On the right of the British the French Fifth Army 
was still a good march north of them, with the left of its 
infantry south-west of Fere en Tardenois, some twenty- 
five miles away, and its cavalry north of Chateau Thierry 
and somewhat nearer. 


Map 4. The 2nd September had thus passed more or less un- 
eventfully for the troops, but aerial reconnaissance re- 
vealed interesting changes on the side of the enemy. His 
general march south-eastward seemed for the time to 
have come to an end, and to have given place to a southerly 
movement. The general front of von Kluck's Army was 
covered by cavalry from Villers Cotterets through Crepy 
en Valois and Villeneuve to Clermont. 3 Behind it from 

1 " Les Champs de 1'Ourcq, September 1914." By J. Roussel-Lepine. 

2 Formed temporarily from the fittest units of Sordet's Cavalry Corps. 
8 The II. Cavalry Corps was, according to von Kluck, in line between 

the IV. and //. Corps, so part of the covering cavalry was divisional. 


east to west opposite the British were the ///., IV. and 2 Sept. 
//. Corps, and there were indications that the heads of ] 
the columns were halting to allow the rear to close up, 
as if apprehensive of danger from the south. The IV. 
Reserve Corps was to the right rear north-west of Clermont 
about St. Just, and the IX. Corps was east of Villers 
Cotte*rets, on the same alignment as the cavalry. Up to 
4 P.M. no hostile troops of any kind had passed a line, about 
ten to twelve miles away, drawn from Mareuil (at the 
junction of the Clignon with the Ourcq) westward through 
Betz to Nanteuil le Haudouin. In fact, it seemed as 
though von Kluck had not foreseen any such collision with 
the British as had taken place on the 1st. Possibly he 
believed them to have moved south-eastward, and such, 
indeed, had been their direction on the 30th, though on 
the 31st it had been changed to south-west to leave more 
space for the retreat of the French Fifth Army. More- 
over, but for the accident which prevented the right and 
centre of the British Army from reaching the halting- 
places ordered for the evening of the 31st, it is probable 
that there would have been no serious collision at all 
between the British and the Germans on the 1st September, 
but that the Germans would have merely brushed against 
the British rear guards, reported the main body to be still 
in retreat, and continued their south-easterly march to take 
the French Fifth Army in flank. 

Events, however, having fallen out as they did, von Sketch 5. 
Kluck made one further attempt to cut off the British. Ma P 19 - 
Meanwhile on his left von Billow was pressing forward 
against the French Fifth Army and had, with his main 
body, reached the line of the Aisne from Pontavert (14 
miles north-west of Rheims) to Soissons, the head of his 
advance being on the Vesle. On his front, the Fifth Army 
had fallen back to the line Rheims Fere en Tardenois. 

The apprehensions of the British Commander-in-Chief 
that on the night of the lst/2nd September von Kluck was 
making preparations to attack him turn out to have been 
fully justified. 1 From a captured document, 2 the German 
general had learnt that " the British Army intended to go 
" into rest billets midday on the 1st September south of the 
" line Verberie Cr6py en Valois La Fert6 Milon. It, 
" therefore, seemed still possible to reach it." At 10.15 P.M. 
on the 1st September he issued orders for the First Army 

1 See p. 245 and Kluck, p. 81. 
2 Captured on a cyclist. Kuhl's " Marne," p. 110. 


to attack the British next day : " the ///. and IV. Corps 
" against their front, crossing the line Verberie Crepy at 
" 7 A.M. ; the IX. Corps, starting at 2 A.M., to envelop their 
" right, and the II. with IV. Reserve in rear of it, to envelop 
" their left, whilst keeping a lookout towards Paris. The 
" //. Cavalry Corps was to connect the IV. and 17. Corps. 

" These arrangements were in vain, the British Army 
"escaped envelopment by a timely withdrawal," for it 
slipped away in the night, as already related. The only 
collision that took place was between the German //. Corps 
and French cavalry and infantry near Senlis, where the 
latter offered a stubborn resistance. 1 " The possibility of 
"dealing a decisive blow against the British could no 
"longer be reckoned on." Von Kluck, therefore, after 
another half day had been wasted, determined to wheel his 
two eastern corps south-east against the flank of the French 
Fifth Army in order to assist von Billow. The rest of the 
First Army was to continue its advance on Paris. Orders 
to this effect were issued at 12.15 P.M. and 1 P.M. on 
the 2nd. In spite of von Kluck's zigzag movements 
subsequent to the battle of Le Cateau, his Army was by 
this time a clear day's march ahead of the Second, and at 
night his general front curved forward from near La Ferte" 
Milon to Senlis. 


Map 4. Whilst in Paris on the 1st September, Sir John French 
made a proposal to the French Minister of War to organize 
a line of defence on the Marne and stand the attack of the 
enemy. This was rejected on the 2nd by General Joffre, 
mainly, apparently, on account of the position of the Fifth 
Army, which on that date was close to the Marne with the 
enemy near at hand. He added : "I consider that the 
" co-operation of the British Army in the defence of Paris is 
" the only co-operation which can give useful results." Late 
in the evening, his Instruction Generate No. 4, which, forecast 
a retreat behind the Seine, reached Sir John French. 2 The 
Field-Marshal therefore gave orders 3 for the Marne to be 
crossed on the 3rd as did General Lanrezac also to his 
Army and for the retreat of the British Army to be 
resumed in a south-easterly direction, as its continuance in 

1 Von Kluck says the British Cavalry Division was in action there, 
but this is a mistake. 

2 Appendices 24 and 25. 3 Appendix 26. 


a south-westerly direction would have brought it inside 3 Sept. 
the perimeter of the entrenched camp of Paris, besides 1914- 
tending to increase the gap between its right and the left 
of the Fifth Army. Since this movement was in the nature 
of a flank march across the enemy's front although it 
turned out that his columns were marching practically 
parallel to the British it was necessary to make arrange- 
ments to keep the Germans off the high ground on the north 
bank of the Marne during its execution. 

Early in the morning of the 3rd September, therefore, 
the 5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades were thrown out to an 
east and west line north-eastwards of Meaux ; the former 
(which was supported by a battalion and a battery) cover- 
ing the loop of the Marne from St. Aulde westwards to 
Lizy sur Ourcq, and the latter the ground thence west- 
wards to Barcy. German cavalry patrols appeared on the 
front of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade between 8 and 9 A.M., but 
did not approach closely, and at 10.30 A.M. the brigade 
crossed the Marne at Germigny, behind the centre of its 
sector, and then moving south-eastwards behind its sister 
brigade, fell into the main road at La Ferte sous Jouarre 
at noon. The 5th Cavalry Brigade was not troubled until 
4 P.M., when a hostile column, including four batteries, 
appeared at May en Multien, due north of Lizy on the 
western bank of the Ourcq. There was some exchange of 
rifle and artillery fire as Brigadier-General Chetwode 
slowly withdrew eastwards, but the Germans were evidently 
content to see him go, for they did not follow, but took up 
billets quietly on the western bank of the Ourcq from Lizy 
northwards. The 5th Cavalry Brigade then crossed the 
Marne at La Ferte sous Jouarre and reached its billets at 
7 P.M., having had no more than five casualties. 

Meanwhile, having started between 3 and 4 A.M., the 1st Sketch 4. 
Division had crossed the Marne at Trilport, the 2nd and Ma P 2(K 
3rd at Meaux, the 5th at Isles les Villenoy, the 4th at 
Lagny and the Cavalry Division at Gournay. They blew 
up all the bridges behind them as they moved south-east, 
and by evening the Army was distributed along a line 
south of the Marne from Jouarre westward to Nogent, I. 
Corps patrols being again in touch with troops of the 
French Fifth Army which was also south of the Marne. 
The Sixth Army, north of the Marne, slightly overlapped 
the British front on the left. 

This march too had proved a trying one ; it was long 
in point of time as well as distance, for the roads were 


much crowded with vehicles of refugees, and some units 
were as much as eighteen hours on the road. 

Aerial reconnaissance on this day established the fact 
that von Kluck had resumed his south-eastward move- 
ment with rapidity and vigour. By 11 A.M. the head of 
the German IX. Corps had already passed the Marne and 
had a sharp engagement with the French at Chateau 
Thierry, 15 miles north-east of the British right. By 
evening the heads of the ///. and IV. Corps had also 
crossed the Marne at Che*zy and La Ferte* sous Jouarre, 
respectively, heading for the gap between the French Fifth 
Army and the British Expeditionary Force. But one and 
all arrived too late at the river, for the whole of the French 
Fifth Army was by that time safely across the Marne, and 
its left had fallen back after the fight at Chateau Thierry, 
and was now in line with the British though still separated 
by a gap of about ten miles. At 4.35 P.M. the British 
Commander-in-Chief, certain from the air information that 
von Kluck was moving from west to east and intended no 
immediate action against him, warned his corps com- 
manders that, unless the situation changed, the troops 
would remain in their present billets, and would probably 
have complete rest next day. The time, however, was not 
yet ripe for General Joffre to make his counter-stroke, and 
he even proposed to retire behind the Seine if it should be 
necessary for the success of his manoeuvre. At 11.50 P.M., 
therefore, Sir John French issued orders * for the remaining 
bridges over the Marne in the British area to be destroyed 
and for the Army to continue its retreat southward. The 
intention being to bring the whole B.E.F. behind the 
Grand Morin, the right or eastern flank had to be swung 
back. The I. Corps, therefore, was to move first, through 
Coulommiers, with the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades 
pushed out to the east, in order to protect its flank and 
to gain contact with Conneau's Cavalry Corps, which was 
reported to be at Rebais, 7 miles away. The II. and III. 
Corps and Cavalry Division were to stand fast until the 
I. Corps had reached the Grand Morin, and then fall back 
in line with it. Every precaution was to be taken to 
conceal the billets of the troops from aircraft. The 
movements of the British Army during the past few days 
had already misled the enemy once and, if its whereabouts 
could now be hidden, might mislead him again. 2 

1 Appendix 27. 

* In this, according to von Kluck, the II. and III. Corps were success- 
ful ; the march and bivouacs of the I. Corps only were observed. 



Accordingly, on the 4th, soon after daybreak, the 5th 4 Sept. 
Cavalry Brigade, with the 3rd in support, advanced east- 1914 - 
ward to Doue midway between the two Morins, and sent Map 4. 
patrols forward along both banks of the Petit Morin. At 
the same time it dispatched the Scots Greys to the east 
towards Rebais to meet the French cavalry there. At 
8 A.M. the patrols reported a hostile column of all arms 
moving south-east along the main road north of the Petit 
Morin from La Ferte sous Jouarre to Montmirail, but 
there were evidently parties of the enemy south of the 
valley, for a troop of the Greys found Germans at Rebais, 
and had such sharp fighting that only five men of it 
escaped. At 11.45 A.M. a column of cavalry with guns 
and three battalions of infantry evidently a flank guard 
were seen moving south-east on the heights between the 
Montmirail road and the Petit Morin, from Boitron upon 
Sablonnieres ; some of them crossing the stream, attacked 
an advanced party of the 5th Cavalry Brigade about a 
mile east of Doue, but without success. The enemy seems 
then to have decided that it was time to thrust back this 
prying English cavalry, and manoeuvred to turn Brigadier- 
General Chetwode's position from the south ; but when 
he fell back under cover of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade and 
the Germans occupied his ground about Doue, the latter 
were at once engaged by E Battery, which disabled one of 
the German guns and did considerable damage among the 
gun teams. At 6 P.M. Brigadier-General Gough in turn 
withdrew the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, protected by the fire 
of the 113th and 114th Batteries, and by the 2nd Infantry 
Brigade, which was in position about Aulnoy. He then 
crossed the Petit Morin at Coulommiers, and made for 
Chailly, a little to the south-east. 

Meanwhile, the I. Corps had marched southward upon 
Coulommiers, not wholly without expectation of inter- 
ference, for the bridge at La Ferte sous Jouarre from lack 
of explosives had not been thoroughly destroyed. About 
8 A.M. indeed a German battalion crossed the river by this Sketch 4. 
bridge, 1 but it did not immediately press on, and the 1st Ma P 21 - 
Division, pursuing its march methodically, halted at 
Aulnoy and Coulommiers in the afternoon. The 2nd 

1 The German IV. Corps and II. Cavalry Corps crossed at La Fert6 
sous Jouarre. 


Division, falling back by brigades in succession, a little 
further to the west, upon Mouroux and Giremoutiers, saw 
nothing but a few cavalry patrols. The II. and III. Corps 
and Cavalry Division actually enjoyed a day of rest on 
the 4th until after dark, when they too moved off south 
through the night, as will be related. For the moment 
the Army was concentrated on the Grand Morin. 

The information obtained by the Flying Corps on this 
day was particularly full and complete, giving the bivouacs 
of all the corps of the German First Army and the lines of 
march of their columns in a south-easterly direction across 
the front of the B.E.F. It confirmed the observations of the 
cavalry to the effect that the main portion of von Kluck's 
Army having crossed the Marne, its left on Chateau Thierry 
and its right on La Ferte sous Jouarre, was pressing on 
through Montmirail La Ferte Gaucher against the left 
of the French Fifth Army (the XVIII. Corps, with Vala- 
bregue's Group of Reserve divisions in echelon behind it, 
and Conneau's Cavalry Corps), and against the gap between 
it and the B.E.F. General Franchet d'Esperey, who had 
taken over command of the Fifth Army from General 
Lanrezac x the previous day, was continuing the with- 
drawal, swinging his left back to meet the threat against it. 

It may be noted that on this day the French Ninth 
Army, under General Foch, came into existence between 
the Fourth and Fifth Armies. It was organized merely 
for convenience of command from the left of the Fourth 
Army, and its formation did not, therefore, affect the 
general situation. 2 

During the 4th September, General Gallieni, the recently 
appointed Military Governor of Paris, under whose direct 
orders the French Sixth Army had been acting since the 
31st August " in the interests of the defence of Paris," came 
with General Maunoury to British headquarters at Melun. 3 
Sir John French was absent visiting his troops, but to 
his Chief of the Staff General Gallieni pointed out that 

1 For an account of his sudden removal, see his book, " Le Plan de 
Campagne franyais et le premier mois de la Guerre," p. 276 et seq. 

2 The French Ninth Army came officially into existence as an inde- 
pendent command at 11 P.M. on the 4th September. It had actually been 
formed on the 29th August as a " Detachement d'Armee." It consisted 
of the IX. and XI. Corps, 52nd and 60th Reserve Divisions and 9th Cavalry 
Division from the left of the Fourth Army, and the 42nd Division from the 
Third Army. Its formation merely reduced the size of the Fourth Army, 
and put the Fourth and Ninth Armies where the Fourth had been. 

8 See " Memoires du General Gallieni. Defense de Paris," p. 121, for 
an account of this visit. 


advantage ought to be taken at once of the opportunity the 4 Sept. 
German First Army had given by offering its right flank. 1914 
He added that he had ordered the Army of Paris, as he 
called his combined forces of the Sixth Army and Paris 
garrison, to move eastwards that afternoon. He stated 
that he proposed, with the concurrence of General Joffre, 
whom he had informed, to attack the German IV. Reserve 
Corps, which was covering the movement of the First Army. 
This formation had been reported that morning marching 
in two columns towards Trilport and Lizy sur Ourcq. 
Galli6ni suggested that the British Army should cease to 
retreat, and take the offensive next day in co-operation 
with his forces. In the absence of the British Commander- 
in-Chief, nothing could be decided, and, after waiting three 
hours until 5 P.M., General Gallieni left. When he reached 
Paris, he found a telegram from General Joffre 1 stating 
that " he considered it more advantageous to bring the 
" Sixth Army to the left [south] bank of the Marne, to the 
" south of Lagny " (where the British left then was), and 
directing him " to come to an understanding with the Field- 
Marshal for the execution of the movement." 

General Joffre had also written to Sir John French on 
this day confirming his intention to adhere to the plan of 
retirement already communicated to him. 2 He added : 

" In case the German Armies should continue the 
" movement south-south-east, thus moving away from the 
" Seine and Paris, perhaps you will consider, as I do, that 
" your action will be most effective on the right bank of 
44 that river between Marne and Seine. 

" Your left resting on the Marne, supported by the 
" entrenched camp of Paris, will be covered by the mobile 
" garrison of the capital, which will attack eastwards on 
" the left bank 3 of the Marne." 

This letter left no doubt that the Generalissimo wished 
the B.E.F. to be withdrawn further to make room for the 
Army of Paris south of the Marne, 4 and in view of the gap 
which existed between the B.E.F. and the Fifth Army, 
and " because the Germans were exercising some pressure 
" on Haig on this night [4th Sept.]," 5 Sir John French 
decided to retire " a few miles further south." 

1 " Memoires du General Gallieni," p. 222. 

2 See Appendix 28 for the original French. 

3 As a result of telephone communications between General Joffre and 
Gallieni on the 4th September this was changed to the right bank. 

* See Sir John French's letter to Earl Kitchener. Appendix 29. 
5 Lord French's " 1914," p. 109. 


At 6.35 P.M., therefore, orders l were issued from British 
G.H.Q. at Melun, for the Army to move south-west on the 
5th, pivoting on its left, so that its rear guards would reach, 
roughly a line drawn east and west through Tournan. The 
times of starting were left to the corps commanders. The 
Cavalry Division was further warned to be ready to move 
from the western to the eastern flank of the Army early 
on the 6th. 

A message informing him of the movements ordered 
was sent to General Gallieni through the French Mission at 
British headquarters. 


Map 4. Accordingly before dawn on the 5th, the I. Corps was 
again on the march southwards with the 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade as rear guard and the 5th as eastern flank guard. 
The latter had a skirmish at Chailly early in the morning, 
but otherwise the march was uneventful, and was indeed 
compared by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to a march in peace 
time. The fighting troops of the III. Corps started at 
4 A.M., but the II. Corps moved off several hours earlier, 
at 10 P.M., in order to avoid the heat of the day. Both 
corps were unmolested. During the 5th, definite orders 
for the Cavalry Division to move to the right flank were 
issued, and in the course of the afternoon it started east- 
wards across the rear of the Army. 

Sketch 4. Thus by nightfall, or a little later, the British force had 
Map 22. reached its halting-places south-south-east of Paris, and 
faced somewhat east of north : the I. Corps in and west 
of Rozoy, the Cavalry Division to its right rear in Mormant 
and the villages north of it, the II. Corps on the left of the 
I., in and east of Tournan, and the III. Corps on the left 
of the II., from Ozoir la Ferriere southwards to Brie Comte 
Robert, touching the defences of Paris. 

Meanwhile, during the 5th September, north-east of the 
capital, General Maunoury's Sixth Army had by General 
Gallieni' s orders advanced north of the Marrie towards 
the Ourcq, and in the afternoon had come into contact with 
the German IV. Reserve Corps between Meaux and St. 
Soupplets. This Army was steadily increasing in numbers 
as divisions reached it from the east. 2 On the right of the 

1 Appendix 30. 

2 It consisted on the 5th September of the VII. Corps, 45th Division, 
55th and 56th Reserve Divisions, the Moroccan Brigade, and Gillet's 


British, and slightly to the south of them, General Conneau's 5 Sept. 
Cavalry Corps (4th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Divisions) was 1914 - 
near Provins, on the extreme left of the Fifth Army, which 
had also retired during the 5th, and was now extended 
north-eastwards from Provins to Sezanne. Thus the gap 
in the Allied line on this side was reduced to less than 
fourteen miles, with four French and British cavalry 
divisions at hand to fill it. 

Opposite the French Fifth Army and the right of the Sketch 5. 
B.E.F., von Kluck's Army had continued its south-eastward Ma P 22 - 
movement. As aeroplane reconnaissance clearly showed, 
the whole of it (except the IV. Reserve Corps and 4th 
Cavalry Division, which were observing Paris) had passed 
the lines of the Ourcq and the Marne and had wheeled to 
the south, its front stretching along the line of the Grand 
Morin, which its advanced troops had crossed, from 
Esternay (near Sezanne) to Crecy (south of Meaux). On 
von Kluck's left, the Second Army was a day's march 
behind him, its right slightly overlapped by the IX. Corps, 
so that for a time there was an impression that he had been 
reinforced. The moment for which General Joffre had 
waited was come at last. Von Kluck, in his headlong rush 
eastwards, had, it appeared, ignored not only the fortress 
of Paris, but the Sixth Army which, with the British, was 
now in position, as a glance at the map will show, to fall in 
strength upon his right flank and rear. 

Similarly, further east, parts of the German Fifth Army 
and the Fourth Army had swept past the western side of 
Verdun, with which fortress General Sarrail's Third Army, 
facing almost due west, was still in touch. Thus, whilst 
the German Sixth and Seventh Armies were held up by the 
eastern fortresses, the Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second and 
First Armies had penetrated into a vast bag or " pocket " 
between the fortresses of Verdun and Paris, the sides of 
which were held by unbeaten troops, ready to turn on the 
enemy directly the command should come to do so. t Credit 
has been claimed for General Gallieni that he first dis- 
covered the eastward march of von Kluck and brought its 
significance to the notice of General Joffre, and that he 

Cavalry Brigade some 70,000 men with Sordet's Cavalry Corps attached. 
Behind it were a group of Territorial brigades under General Mercier- 
Milon, Ebener's Group of Reserve divisions (61st and 62nd), and the 
actual garrison of Paris, four divisions and a brigade of Territorial troops, 
with a brigade of Fusiliers Marins sent for police duties. The IV. Corps 
was just arriving, so General Gallieni reckoned he had about 150,000 men 
available for action as the Army of Paris. 


immediately took appropriate action with the troops under 
his command, and prevailed upon the Commander-in- 
Chief to change his plan for retiring behind the Seine. Be 
this as it may, the decision to resume the offensive rested 
with General Joffre. 

The retreat of the B.E.F. had continued, with only one 
halt, for thirteen days over a distance, as the crow flies, of 
one hundred and thirty-six miles, and as the men marched, at 
least two hundred miles, and that after two days' strenuous 
marching in advance to the Mons Canal. The mere state- 
ment of the distance gives no measure of the demands made 
upon the physical and moral endurance of the men, and 
but little idea of the stoutness with which they had re- 
sponded to these demands. The misery that all ranks 
suffered is well summed up in the phrase of an officer : "I 
" would never have believed that men could be so tired and 
" so hungry and yet live." An artillery officer whose brigade 
marched and fought throughout the retreat with the same 
infantry brigade has noted in his diary that, on the average, 
mounted men had three hours', and infantry four hours' 
rest per day. The late General Sir Stanley Maude, who 
was on the III. Corps Staff, has put it on record that he 
did not average three hours' sleep out of the twenty-four ; * 
officers of the lower staffs had less. But all these trials 
were now behind them : the Retreat from Mons was over. 

There have been three other notable retreats in the 
history of the British Army. All three, that of Sir 
John Moore to Corunna in the winter of 1808-9, of Sir 
Arthur Wellesley after the battle of Talavera in 1809, 
and again from Burgos to Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, were 
marred by serious lack of discipline, though the first was 
redeemed by its results and the success of the final action at 
Corunna, and the last was reckoned by critics to be the 
greatest of Wellington's achievements. The Retreat from 
Mons, on the other hand, was in every way honourable to 
the Army. The troops suffered under every disadvantage. 
The number of reservists in the ranks was on an average 
over one-half of the full strength, and the units were owing 
to the force of circumstances hurried away to the area of con- 
centration before all ranks could resume acquaintance with 
their officers and comrades, and re-learn their business as 
soldiers. Arrived there, they were hastened forward by 
forced marches to the battle, confronted with greatly 
superior numbers of the most renowned army in Europe, 
1 CallwelPs " Sir Stanley Maude," p, 120. 


and condemned at the very outset to undergo the severest 5 Sept. 
ordeal which can be imposed upon an army. They were 1914 - 
short of food and sleep when they began their retreat, they 
continued it, always short of food and sleep, for thirteen 
days, as has been told ; and at the end they were still an 
army, and a formidable army. They were never de- 
moralized, for they rightly judged that they had never 
been beaten. 1 

The B.E.F., forming as it did only a very small portion 
of the line of the French Armies commanded by General 
Joffre, had no independent strategical role in the opening 
phases of the war. When the Germans turned the Allied 
left by an unexpectedly wide movement through Belgium, 
the Generalissimo decided that his only chance of stopping 
them was " by abandoning ground and mounting a new 
operation " ; 2 to this Sir John French had naturally to 
conform. The operation, which involved the assembly of a 
new Army in the west to outflank the enemy, required time 
to prepare. General Joffre at first hoped, whilst his First 
and Second Armies held Lorraine, to be able to stand on Maps 2, 
the line Verdun river Aisne (Vouziers Berry au Bac) & 4 - 
Craonne Laon La Fere Ham, and thence along the 
Somme. This line he intended to entrench. 3 The Germans, 
however, pressed on too closely to permit of it, and 
widened their turning movement. There was no alternative 
to fighting at a strategical and tactical disadvantage but 
a further general retirement "hanging on as long as 
possible, avoiding any decisive action," but giving the 
enemy severe lessons as opportunities occurred. 4 

Instead of being beaten piecemeal by superior forces 
as in 1870, the French, after the initial failure of their 
offensive, withdrew in good time. Such fights as took 
place, and there were many all along the front besides 
Guise, 5 resulted not in a Woerth or a Spicheren, but 
in the Allies slipping away after inflicting severe losses on 
the enemy. 6 In these operations, the B.E.F., at Mons and 
Le Cateau and in smaller actions, was eminently successful : 

1 A table of the length of the daily marches will be found in Appendix 31 . 

2 Rapport du General Joffre au Ministre de la Guerre, 25th Aug. 1914. 

3 Directive of 25th August, 22 hours. 

4 General Joffre's letter to G.H.Q. of 30th August. 

5 Beaufort, La Marfee, Murtin, Tremblois, Chilly, Launais, besides the 
battles of Signy 1'Abbaye and Rethel. 

6 General Graf Stiirgkh, head of the Austrian Mission at German 
G.H.Q. , gives the heavy losses suffered by the Germans in the preliminary 
engagements as one of the principal reasons for the defeat at the Marne 
(" Im Deutschen Grossen Hauptquartier," p. 88). 


it had no difficulty in more than holding its own whenever 
contact occurred, hitting hard and then marching off un- 
molested. Only those who have commanded British 
infantry can have any conception of what it can accomplish. 

By some it has been thought that the B.E.F. could 
have done more ; in particular it might have assisted the 
French at Guise. It has, however, been shown in the 
narrative 1 that one of the reasons that General Joffre 
ordered General Lanrezac to take the offensive was to 
relieve the pressure on the British, and he did not call on 
Sir John French to assist. The British Commander-in- 
Chief, in his dangerous position on the outer flank of the 
Allied Armies for many days, had not only to bear in mind 
General Joffre's general instructions to avoid decisive 
action and the necessity of husbanding his force for the 
coming battle when the Armies should turn, but to recall 
that he commanded nearly all the available trained staff 
officers, officers and men of the British Empire, the 
nucleus on which the New Armies were to be trained and 
initiated in war ; above all, he had to remember the in- 
structions of the Government, that " the greatest care must 
be exercised towards a minimum of losses and wastage." 

On the 5th September there were some twenty thousand 
men absent of the original numbers of the B.E.F. ; but, 
as in all great retreats, a large proportion of these rejoined 
later ; the official returns show a figure of a little over 
fifteen thousand killed, wounded and missing. The loss 
of war material is difficult to set down exactly. Some 
transport was abandoned as is inevitable at such times ; 
many of the valises and great-coats were discarded or burnt, 
and a very large proportion of the entrenching tools left 
behind. As to guns, forty-two fell into the enemy's hands 
as the result of active combat, and two or three more, 
through one mishap or another, were left behind. Such 
a casualty list can, in the circumstances, be only considered 
as astonishingly light. Its seriousness lay in the fact that, 
whether in guns or men, the loss had fallen almost wholly 
upon the left wing : the II. and III. Corps, and above all 
upon the II. Corps. 


Sketch i. It was impossible to expect that the deficiencies in men 
Map 2. an( j material could be immediately made good. Practi- 
cally all units received their first reinforcements the " ten 

1 See pp. 218 and 227. 


per cent reinforcements " on the 4th and 5th September, 1-5 Sept. 
and these, added to the replacement of the Ministers in the 1914) - 
1st (Guards) Brigade by the Cameron Highlanders (hitherto 
Army Troops), brought the I. Corps more or less up to 
strength. But the far graver losses of the II. Corps, 
especially in guns and vehicles, could not be so quickly 
repaired. The rapid advance of the Germans to the 
west had made the bases at Boulogne and Havre 
unsafe, and had actually dispossessed the British of 
their advanced base at Amiens. The advisability of a 
change of base was foreseen by the Q.M.G., Major-General 
Sir William Robertson, as early as the 24th August, 
and from that date all further movement of men or 
stores to Havre or Boulogne was stopped. By the 27th, 
Boulogne had been cleared of stores and closed as a port 
of disembarkation; and on the 29th St. Nazaire on the 
Loire was selected as the new base. 1 At that time there 
were sixty thousand tons of stores at Havre ; also fifteen 
thousand men and fifteen hundred horses, besides eight 
hundred tons of hay at Rouen, all awaiting transfer to St. 
Nazaire. By the 30th of August the Inspector-General of 
Communications, Major-General Robb, had telegraphed his 
requirements in tonnage to Southampton ; and on the 1st 
September the transports for the troops were ordered to 
Havre. By the 3rd September all stores had been cleared 
from Rouen, and all troops from Havre ; and by the 5th 
every pound of stores had been removed from Havre. In 
fact, in these four days twenty thousand officers and men, 
seven thousand horses and sixty thousand tons of stores had 
been shipped from Havre to St. Nazaire, a very considerable 
feat of organization. 

A mere comparison of dates, however, will show that, 
despite this great effort, some days were bound to elapse 
before the gigantic mass of stores could be landed, the new 
base thoroughly organized, and all arrangements working 
smoothly for the despatch of what was needed to the front 
by a longer line of communication. The arrival of the first 
reinforcements on the 4th and 5th September was only 
secured by extraordinary exertions ; and it was obvious 
that the II. Corps must enter upon the new operations 
with its ranks still much depleted, and lacking one-third 
of its divisional artillery. 

1 The L. of C. ran from St. Nazaire by two railway routes one via 
Saumur and the other by Le Mans to Villeneuve St. Georges, just south- 
east of Paris, whence there was one route to a varying railhead. 



Sketch 5. On the 28th August, it will be recalled, 1 the German 
' S u P reme Command (O.H.L.) had ordered the Second Army 
to march on Paris, and the First Army on the lower Seine, 
on the supposition that at least the French centre and left 
were in full retreat on the capital. 2 After the battle of 
Guise (29th-30th August) both von Kluck and von Billow 
had departed from these orders : the former turned south- 
eastwards to help von Bulow who, instead of marching on 
Paris, was preparing to follow the French Fifth Army due 

Approval of this change had been given by O.H.L. 
late on the 30th, but it was not until the night of the 
2nd/3rd September that further orders, embodying a new 
plan, evidently founded on the optimistic reports received 
from the Armies, were issued by O.H.L. in the form of a 
message to the First and Second Armies. This ran : 

"The French are to be forced away from Paris in a south- 
" easterly direction. 

" The First Army will follow in echelon behind the Second 
" Army, and will be responsible henceforward for the flank 
" protection of the force. 

" The appearance of some of our cavalry before Paris, as 
" well as the destruction of all roads leading to Paris is desired." 

These orders placed von Kluck in an unpleasant 
dilemma ; 3 the Second Army was " a heavy day's march 
behind the mass of the First Army" To march back a 
day to get into the echelon position ordered would have 
made it impossible to drive the French south-eastwards, 
an operation which the First Army had initiated and alone 
was at the moment in a position to attempt. For it to 
mark time for two days was even further out of the question ; 
the success that O.H.L. hoped for could not be achieved 
if it stood still. Von Kluck, therefore, considered that he 
could best carry out the spirit of the orders if he detailed 

1 See p. 222. 

2 It may however have been in pursuance of von Schlieffen's plan drawn 
up in 1905 . According to this, part of the Second Army reinforced by Ersatz 
divisions was to invest Paris, whilst the First Army passing round the 
capital was then to move east and envelop the French Armies or drive 
them towards Switzerland. Sufficient forces for this scheme were however 
no longer available. 

3 See Kluck, p. 85 el seq. 


the IV. Reserve Corps and a cavalry division for the flank 3-4 Sept. 
protection against Paris, and moved forward with the rest 1914 - 
of his Army across the Marne to drive the French south- 
eastwards. He kept a second corps, the //., in echelon 
behind his right as further cover against Paris, and in- 
formed O.H.L. that " the proposed driving of the enemy 
" from Paris in a south-easterly direction could only be 
" carried out by the advance of the First Army." On the 
evening of the 3rd he issued orders to his corps in accord- 
ance with his own views. They began : 

" The First Army will continue its advance over the Marne 
" to-morrow in order to drive the French south-eastwards. 

" If any British are met with, they are to be driven back." 1 

The importance attached to the flank guard is indicated 
by the fact that it was formed only of a Reserve corps, 
short of a brigade left behind at Brussels, and the 4th 
Cavalry Division, which had been cut up at Nery. 

On the 4th September, therefore, von Kluck continued 
his march south-south-east between the Marne and the Petit 
Morin, whilst von Biilow crossed the Marne and advanced a 
short way south of it " without important fighting." At 
7.30 P.M. von Kluck, still under the impression that his 
principal task was to drive the Allies south-eastwards from 
Paris, and as usual quite in the dark as to the whereabouts 
of the B.E.F., issued the following orders for next day : 

" The First Army will continue its advance against the Seine 
" with protection towards Paris. Should the British be caught 
" up anywhere they will be attacked." 

His corps were directed to cross the Grand Morin, and 
reach : the IX. Esternay, the ///. Sancy ; the IV. Choisy : 
even the //. Corps was to cross the Marne and reach the 
Grand Morin below Coulommiers ; the IV. Reserve Corps 
with the 4th Cavalry Division was to come further south- 
wards, to the north of Meaux, and the //. Cavalry Corps 

go J 

consequence of the Third Army being somewhat in 
rear of its place in the line south and south-east of Rheims, 
von Biilow ordered for the 5th only a short march to 
Montmirail Vertus for the Second Army. 

During the afternoon of the 4th September, the true 
situation that the Allies were by no means beaten and 
that the French were preparing to envelop the German 

1 Kluck, p. 91. 2 Kluck, pp. 93, 94. 


right instead of submitting to being enveloped dawned 
on O.H.L. 

How von Moltke felt is recorded by Herr Helfferich, 
the Foreign Secretary. On the evening of the 4th Sep- 
tember, he says : 

" I found Generaloberst von Moltke by no means in 
" a cheerful mood inspired by victory, he was serious 
" and depressed. He confirmed that our advanced troops 
" were only thirty miles from Paris [the Kaiser had just 
" announced this triumphantly to Helfferich], ' but,' he 
" added, ' we've hardly a horse in the army that can go 
out of a walk.' After a short pause, he continued : 
We must not deceive ourselves. We have had suc- 
cesses, but we have not yet had victory. Victory 
means annihilation of the enemy's power of resistance. 
When armies of millions of men are opposed, the 
victor has prisoners. Where are ours ? There were 
some 20,000 taken in the Lorraine fighting, another 
10,000 here and perhaps another 10,000 there. Besides, 
the relatively small number of captured guns shows 
me that the French have withdrawn in good order and 
according to plan. The hardest work is still to be 
" ' done.' " * 

At 6.45 P.M. the Supreme Command issued the following 
Memorandum and orders to all Armies. They appear of 
sufficient importance to quote in extenso. 2 The substance 
was sent out by wireless, and reached the First and Second 
Armies about 6 A.M. on the 5th ; the originals were carried 
by officers in motor cars, who did not arrive until 
" evening." 

" 4tth September 7.45 p.m. [German time] 

" To all Armies 

" The enemy has evaded the enveloping attack of the 
' First and Second Armies, and a part of his forces has joined 
' up with those about Paris. From reports and other in- 
' formation, it appears that the enemy is moving troops 
4 westwards from the front Toul Belfort, and is also taking 
' them from the front of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies. 
1 The attempt to force the whole French Army back in a 
' south-easterly direction towards the Swiss frontier is thus 

1 " Der Weltkrieg," vol. ii. pp. 17, 18. 

2 Their probable meaning is discussed on page 301. See also foot- 
note 3, p. 300. 


" rendered impracticable, and the new situation to be ap- 4 Sept. 
" preciated shows that the enemy is bringing up new formations 1914. 
" and concentrating superior forces in the neighbourhood of 
" Paris, to protect the capital and to threaten the right flank 
" of the German Army. 

44 The First and Second Armies must therefore remain facing 
44 the east front of Paris. Their task is to act against any 
" operations of the enemy from the neighbourhood of Paris 
" and to give each other mutual support to this end. 

44 The Fourth and Fifth Armies are still operating against 
" superior forces. They must maintain constant pressure to 
" force them south - eastwards, and by this means open a 
" passage for the Sixth Army over the Moselle between Toul 
" and Epinal. Whether by co-operating with the Sixth and 
" Seventh Armies they will then succeed in forcing any con- 
" siderable part of the enemy's forces towards Swiss territory 
" cannot yet be foreseen. 

" The Sixth and Seventh Armies will continue to hold the 
44 enemy in position on their front, but will take the offensive 
44 as soon as possible against the line of the Moselle between 
44 Toul and Epinal, securing their flanks against these fortresses. 

44 The Third Army will march in the direction Troyes 
44 Vendeuvre [that is south]. It will be employed, as the 
44 situation demands, either to the west to support the crossing 
44 of the First and Second Armies over the Seine, or to the south 
44 and south-east to co-operate in the fighting of our armies 
44 on the left wing. 

44 His Majesty therefore orders : 

44 (1) The First and Second Armies will remain facing the 
44 eastern front of Paris, to act offensively against any opera- 
44 tions of the enemy from Paris. The First Army will be 
44 between the Oise and the Marne, the Second Army between 
44 the Marne and the Seine. //. Cavalry Corps will be with 
44 the First Army. I. Cavalry Corps with the Second Army. 

44 (2) The Third Army will advance on Troyes Vendeuvre. 

44 (3) The Fourth and Fifth Armies, by a determined advance 
44 in a south-easterly direction, will open a passage across the 
14 Upper Moselle for the Sixth and Seventh Armies. The right 
44 wing of the Fourth Army will move through Vitry (on the 
44 Marne, 45 miles south-east of Rheims), and the right wing 
44 of the Fifth Army will move through Revigny (20 miles 
44 E.N.E. of Vitry). The IV. Cavalry Corps will operate in 
44 front of the Fourth and Fifth Armies. 

44 (4) The task of the Sixth and Seventh Armies remains 
44 unchanged." * VON MOLTKE. 

1 Next day, it may be added, von Moltke began withdrawing the XV. 
Corps and 7th Cavalry Division from the left, to be railed through Belgium 
to reinforce the right. 


The orders to the First and Second Armies, it will be 
observed, clearly intended emphasis to be laid on their 
remaining facing Paris and not attacking unless the 
enemy moved against them, for, in accordance with German 
principles, every commander would act offensively if 
within reach of the enemy. 

Von Billow took immediate steps to obey O.H.L. 
orders literally. He stopped the advance of his Army, 
and wheeled the left wing slightly forward, so as to begin 
changing the front gradually from south to west, in ex- 
pectation that the First Army would conform. 1 

The staff of the First Army, however, was puzzled by 
the orders, for the position of the troops in detail had been 
reported by wireless to O.H.L. ; and the Army could not 
44 remain " between Oise and Marne, for the greater part 
of it had crossed the Marne. If there was danger brewing 
for the right flank in consequence of further transfers of 
troops to Maunoury, von Kluck considered the best 
method of conjuring it was to attack all along the line. 
After receipt of the wireless summary of the orders, he 
therefore sent the following message to O.H.L. : 2 

44 First Army in compliance with previous instructions of 
4 O.H.L. is advancing via Rebais Montmirail against the Seine. 
4 Two corps cover it towards Paris, on either side of the Marne. 
4 At Coulommiers there is contact with about three English 
' divisions, at Montmirail with the west flank of the French. 
4 The latter are offering lively resistance with rear guards, 
4 and should suffer very considerably if pursuit is continued 
4 to the Seine. They have hitherto only been driven back 
4 frontally and are noways beaten out of the field. Their 
4 retreat is directed on Nogent sur Seine. If the investment 
4 of Paris that has been ordered is carried out, the enemy 
4 would be free to manoeuvre towards Troyes. The strong 
4 forces suspected in Paris are only in the act of assembly. 
' Parts of the Field Army will no doubt be sent there, but this 
4 will require time. Consider breaking contact with the 
4 thoroughly battle-fit Field Army and shifting of the First 
4 and Second Armies is undesirable. I propose instead : 
4 pursuit to be continued to the Seine and then investment 
4 of Paris." 

The First Army, notwithstanding this proposal, began 
to make preparations to obey O.H.L. orders, but it was 
practically impossible to get new instructions to the corps 
in time to stop the marches in progress. The IV. Reserve 

1 Billow, p. 52. 
2 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 128 et seq. The time is not given. 


Corps, close at hand, was directed to halt where it happened 5 Sept. 
to be on receipt of the message ; as this did not reach it 1914 - 
until 11 A.M., it had already completed its march for the 
day. To the //. Cavalry Corps instructions were sent by 
wireless not to get out of touch of the Army Headquarters 
by advancing further south. As there was no signal 
communication with the other corps and the officers to 
receive orders were due at 11 A.M. in Rebais, no instruc- 
tions were sent out to them. It was decided that orders 
for the new situation should be issued in the evening. 

During the day reports showed that the Allies were 
retreating on the whole front from Montmirail to Coulom- 
miers and " there was no sign of danger to the right flank 
north of the Marne." Towards evening Lieut. -Colonel 
Hentsch arrived from O.H.L. to explain the situation, and 
another officer brought the written copy of the morning 
wireless orders. Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch stated that the 
general situation was dubious (misslich). The left wing 
was held up before Nancy Epinal, and, in spite of heavy 
losses, could not get on. The Fourth and Fifth Armies 
were only making slow progress. Apparently transfers 
of troops were being made from the French right wing in 
the direction of Paris. " It was reported that further 
" British troops were about to land, perhaps at Ostend. 
" Assistance to Antwerp by the British was probable." 
When Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch was informed of the pre- 
parations that had been made to stop the advance, he 
said " that they corresponded to the wishes of O.H.L., 
" and that the movement could be made at leisure ; no 
" special haste was necessary." * 

Thus, on the afternoon of the 5th September, four corps 
of the German First Army were across the Grand Morin 
with two cavalry divisions ahead of them, but with only a 
weak flank guard behind the western flank. The Army was 
thus well inside the angle formed by the fronts of the French 
Fifth Army and the British Expeditionary Force with that 
of the French Sixth Army. Von Kluck's orders for the 6th 
were not issued from Rebais until 10 P.M. They will be 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 128. These remarks, it is stated by von Kuhl, 
were made in the presence of a witness, Lieut.-Colonel Grautoff, the senior 
General Staff officer of the First Army. In judging of the proceedings, von 
Kuhl points out that it should be borne in mind that " Neither O.H.L. nor 
" the First Army staff had the remotest idea that an immediate offensive 
" of the whole French army was imminent. The continuation of the 
" French retreat was accepted as certain. . . . Not a sign, not a word from 
" prisoners, not a newspaper paragraph gave warning." 


given after the British operations for that day have been 
described. There was a collision between the flank guard 
and the French Sixth Army near St. Soupplets (7 miles 
N.N.W. of Meaux) on the afternoon of the 5th ; but news 
of this did not reach von Kluck until " late at night long 
after his orders had gone out," x and did not therefore 
affect his decision. 

1 Kuhl's "Marne," p. 133. According to Kluck, p. 98, hostile forces 
had been reported near Dammartin and St. Mard on the 4th September, 
and General von Gronau, commanding the IV. Reserve Corps, attacked on 
the 5th to clear up the situation. 




(See Sketches 2, 5, 6 & 7 ; 
Maps 2, 4, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 & 29) 

IN the early morning of the 5th, at 3 A.M., a copy of General Sketch 5. 
Joffre's " Instruction " for an offensive on the 6th was ^ a ? s 2 4 3 ' 
brought to British G.H.Q. by a representative of French 4 
General Headquarters. Some inkling of what this might 
contain had already reached Sir John French, for two of his 
staff officers had seen General Franchet d'Esperey at his 
headquarters on the afternoon of the 4th, and to them that 
commander had explained the plan of a proposed attack, 
which was practically the same as that now ordered. 
During the 5th, General Maunoury, and later General 
Joffre, visited the Field-Marshal ; the situation was fully 
discussed, and all arrangements were made to begin the 
attack all along the line next day. 

It was significant that General Joffre's instructions for 
the offensive x dealt first with the Armies of the left. Their 
general purport was that the two centre Armies should hold 
on whilst the three Armies on the left (including the British 
Army), and the Third Army on the right, attacked the 
flanks of the German forces which were endeavouring to 
push forward between Verdun and Paris. On the extreme 
left, the Sixth Army, with the I. Cavalry Corps, was to cross 
the Ourcq north-east of Meaux, between Lizy sur Ourcq and 
May en Multien (4 miles north of Lizy), and attack east- 
wards in the direction of Chateau Thierry. (Owing to the 
progress of the enemy, these orders were subsequently 
altered to an advance on Meaux.) The British Army, 
facing east, was to attack from the front Changis (7 miles 
east of Meaux) Coulommiers in the general direction of 
Montmirail, the French II. Cavalry Corps ensuring connec- 
1 See Appendices 32 and 33 where they are given in exlenso. 


tion between it and the Fifth Army. The Fifth Army 
(General Franchet d'Esperey) was to attack northwards. 
In the centre, the Ninth Army (General Foch) was to cover 
the right of the Fifth Army, by holding the southern exits 
of the passages over the St. Gond marshes (the gathering 
ground of the Petit Morin), but with part of its forces on the 
plateau west of the marshes. On the right, the Fourth (de 
Langle de Gary) and Third (Sarrail) Armies were to act in 
conjunction, the former holding the enemy whilst the latter 
was to attack westwards against the flank of the Germans 
advancing along the eastern edge of the Argonne. 

Unfortunately, these orders not having reached Sir John 
French's headquarters until the early morning of the 5th, 
the British Army acted on General Joffre's previous in- 
structions, and starting early the II. Corps before mid- 
night and the I. and III. Corps before daybreak, continued 
to retire as already related during the early part of the day. 
Thus on the night of the 5th it was 12 to 15 miles in rear 
of the position in which the French Commander-in-Chief 
expected it to be. 

The ground over which the British Army was about to 
advance forms part of the great plateau, east and north-east 
of Paris, whose eastern edge, roughly indicated by Craonne 
Rheims Epernay Nogent sur Seine, is 400 to 500 feet 
above the plain of Champagne. It is a country of great 
open spaces ; highly cultivated, dotted with woods and 
villages, but with no great forests except those of Crecy, 
Armainvillers and Malvoisine, all south of Coulommiers. It 
is cut into from east to west by the deep valleys, almost 
ravines, of the Grand Morin, the Petit Morin, the Marne, 
the upper course of the Ourcq, the Vesle, the Aisne and the 
Ailette. These rivers are passable only at the bridges or by 
bridging, and form ideal lines on which to fight delaying 
actions. Otherwise, the region on the east of the line 
Soissons Meaux presents no definite positions. 

Sir John French's operation orders issued at 5.15 P.M. 
on the 5th September directed the Army to advance east- 
ward with a view to attacking, and, as a preliminary, to 
wheel to the east pivoting on its right, so that it would come 
on to the line roughly parallel to the Grand Morin and 
7 miles from it La Chapelle Iger (south-east of Rozoy) 
Villeneuve le Comte Bailly (5 miles south-west of Crecy). 1 

1 Sir John French's operation orders and the operation orders of the 
Cavalry Division and the I., II. and III. Corps will be found in Appendices 
34 to 38. 



A dvance of B.E.F. 
Positions at night are shown by dates. 






EsternayJ Fere o 

-P f Champenoise 


o Provins 

MILES 543210 




Ordnance Survey, 1920. 


This movement was to be completed by the right wing by 6 Sept. 
9 A.M. and the left by 10 A.M. The Cavalry Division, and 1914 - 
the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades acting together under 
General Gough, 1 were to cover the front and flanks of the 
force, and connect with the French Armies between which 
the British were moving. 

Pezarches, 5 miles to the north of Rozoy, the 1st Divi- 
sion's halting-place on the 5th, was reached about 7 A.M. 
by General Gough without opposition, and thence patrols 
were pushed out northwards- towards the Forest of Mal- 
voisine, north-eastwards upon Mauperthuis and eastwards 
upon Touquin. At all these points and also in the Forest 
of Crecy touch was gained with the enemy ; and the 
advanced parties of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade on the right 
flank, pressing on to Pecy (5 miles south-east of Rozoy), 
found themselves in the presence of formidable forces. 
Large masses of German cavalry could be seen moving 
southwards upon Jouy le Chatel (east of Pe*cy), 2 but heavy 
hostile columns observed on the road north of Pe*cy, 
suddenly and without assignable cause, turned about while 
still two miles distant, and counter-marched to the north. 3 

This happened between 8 and 9 A.M. ; but immediately 
afterwards the German cavalry and artillery became aggres- 
sive on the right flank. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was 
shelled out of Pecy and compelled to retire for a short 
distance until the rest of the division could come up. The 
leading regiment of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, somewhat 
later, was forced back from Touquin, then shelled out of 
Pezarches and finally, having no guns in support, was 
driven back to Rigny (1 mile south-west of Pezarches). 
As it retired German battalions * were seen moving west- 
ward from Vaudoy towards Rozoy ; this column, which 
had been sighted by the Flying Corps earlier in the morning, 
was described by the observers as being of the strength of 

1 Henceforward, until officially designated the 2nd Cavalry Division 
on the 16th September, the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades acted together 
under the command of Brig.-General Hubert Gough, and the Cavalry 
Division contained the 1st, 2nd and 4th Cavalry Brigades. Brig.-General 
J. Vaughan succeeded General Gough in command of the 3rd Cavalry 

8 The German 11. Cavalry Corps had orders to demonstrate towards 
Lumigny Rozoy to cover the withdrawal of the right of the German 
First Army. 

3 This was part of the German IV. Corps. 

4 If von Kluck's map is correct, these must have been Jdger. There 
were four battalions, Nos. 3, 4, 9, 10, with the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions 
(" Militar Wochenblatt," No. 11, 1920). According to Kluck, pp. 152-3; the 
3rd and 4th Jdger were carried in motor lorries. 



a brigade, with a brigade of artillery attached to it. 
Sketch o. The leading troops of the I. Corps, the advanced guard 
Map 23. of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, found themselves checked 
when no more than two miles east of Rozoy by this party 
of the enemy ; and, the II. Corps being still near La 
Houssaye (6 miles north-west of Rozoy), 5 miles in rear 
of the I., General Haig felt uneasy about his left, over- 
shadowed as it was by the great forests of Crecy and Mal- 
voisine, which could easily conceal large numbers of the 
enemy. He therefore directed the 1st Division to halt, and 
its advanced guard to take up a covering position. On 
receiving Haig's report of this action, the Commander-in- 
Chief sent orders to the II. Corps to close in on the I. to 
Lumigny (4 miles north of Rozoy). 

West of the I. Corps, the II. and III. Corps had marched 
north-eastward at 5 A.M. and 3 A.M., respectively, to a line 
running from CreVecreur (4 miles W.N.W. of Pezarches), 
north-westward through Villeneuve le Comte to Serris (6 
miles west of Cr6cy). Both corps reached this destination 
in the forenoon, without molestation ; for, though hostile 
patrols were encountered as the columns moved through 
the Forest of Crecy, the main body of the Germans, esti- 
mated at a cavalry division, retired at once. Shortly 
after 11 A.M., however, the II. Corps as already mentioned, 
and also the III. Corps, received the Commander-in-Chief s 
orders to close in to the left of the I. Corps ; and between 1 
and 1.30 P.M. they resumed their march in the new direction. 
By 3 P.M. their approach had cleared the enemy from the 
left flank of the I. Corps ; and shortly afterwards the 1st 
Division, again advancing upon Vaudoy, found that the 
Germans had evacuated their positions and retreated north- 
ward. The enemy had, in fact, upon this day reached the 
extreme limit of his advance, and by 6 P.M. the Flying Corps 
reported that there were no important bodies south of the 
Petit Morin except at Rebais. 

At 3.30 P.M. Sir John French issued orders by telegraph 
for the I. Corps to advance to a line just short of the Grand 
Morin, from Marolles (4 miles E.S.E. of Coulommiers) to 
Les Parichets (1 mile south-west of Coulommiers)'; for the 
II. Corps to come up to west of it from Les Parichets to 
Mortcerf (5 miles south of Crcy) ; and for the III. Corps 
to move up into the loop of the Grand Morin south- 
westward of Crecy, between Tigeaux (2J miles south of 
Crecy) and Villiers sur Morin (2J miles north-west of 
Tigeaux). The Cavalry Division was to advance north- 


east to the line Choisy Chevru (4 miles and 6 miles 6 Sept. 
south-west of La Ferte Gaucher), and cover the right 1914 - 
flank ; and Gough's cavalry brigades were sent in rear of 
the left of the I. Corps. But by the time that these orders 
reached the I. Corps, it was too late for it to make more 
than a short move to the line Vaudoy Touquin Pe- 
zarches, 8 miles short of its intended destination, where it 
halted at 6.30 P.M. In the II. Corps, however, the head of 
the 3rd Division reached Faremoutiers : whence, after a 
few skirmishes with the German piquets, the 1st Wiltshire 
of the 7th Infantry Brigade, at 11 P.M., forced the passage 
of the Grand Morin and seized the heights of Le Chamois, 
about a mile north of the river. The other divisions of 
the II. and III. Corps also got to their places. The final 
positions taken up for the night were as follows, the heads 
of the II. and III. Corps being up to the Grand Morin and 
the I. Corps and cavalry echeloned to the right rear : 
Cavalry Division . Jouy le Chatel. Sketch 6 

I. Corps Vaudoy Touquin Pezarches. 

Gough's Cavalry Brigades . Pezarches Lumigny. 

II. Corps : 

3rd Division . . . . Lumigny northward to Fare- 

5th Division .... Mortcerf northward to La Celle 

sur Morin (1J miles west of 

III. Corps Villiers sur Morin southward 

to Villeneuve le Comte and 
Villeneuve St. Denis. 

The intelligence gathered during the day was that the 
///. and IX. German Corps, with the Guard Cavalry Division 
on their western flank, were opposing the French Fifth 
Army south of the Grand Morin on the line Esternay 
Montceaux Couperdriz (5 miles W.S.W. of Montceaux). 
Echeloned to the west in second line between the Grand and 
Petit Morin were part of the German IV. Corps at Rebais, 
with the 5th Cavalry Division in front of it north of 
Marolles, and the X. Reserve Corps (as was conjectured) 
west of Montmirail. The //. Corps and 2nd and 9th 
Cavalry Divisions were opposite the British ; and the 
remainder of the IV. Corps 9 the IV. Reserve Corps and the 
4th Cavalry Division opposite the French Sixth Army. The 
operations had also established the fact that the units of 
the 17. Corps which had been engaged with the British left 


during the day, had withdrawn across the Grand Morin. 
The 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions were at nightfall north- 
east of Crecy and moving to cross the Marne a little east 
of Meaux. Both the Fifth and Sixth French Armies were 
reported to have pressed the enemy back ; but their situa- 
tion was still so imperfectly known that at 7 P.M. Sir John 
French issued no orders for the 7th September except a 
Special Order of the Day * and a warning that all the troops 
should be ready to move at short notice any time after 8 
A.M. By evening practically all the " First reinforcements " 
for the British Army had arrived from the Base. 


Sketch 6. Owing to delay in transit, the instructions from General 
2* a & S t' J onC]re to push on, giving information that the Sixth Army 
' had been successful, did not reach G.H.Q. at Melun till 
11 A.M. on the 7th. But the British cavalry was early on the 
move ; the Cavalry Division on the right pushed eastward 
to the Grand Morin, upon Leudon (3 miles south of La 
Ferte Gaucher) and Choisy, and the 3rd and 5th Cavalry 
Brigades on its left, northward upon Chailly and Coulom- 
miers. The advanced parties of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade 
found that the Germans had left Mauperthuis (3 miles 
south of the Grand Morin) just as they themselves entered 
it, and overtook a few stragglers a mile further on, who were 
driven towards the river under effective fire from E Battery 
R.H.A. The enemy seemed to be withdrawing his covering 
troops northward. The 4th Cavalry Brigade, advancing 
further east, came upon cavalry, cyclists and guns south 
of Dagny (2 miles south-west of Choisy), and forced 
them back north and east across the front of the 2nd 
Cavalry Brigade ; and the 9th Lancers, who were at the 
head of the latter brigade, thereupon pushed on to the 
hamlet of Moncel, a mile and a half to the south-east of 
Dagny, which was held by the enemy. A German patrol 
was driven out, and it was then occupied by a squadron of 
the 9th. A troop of the 9th was sent northward to protect 
the left flank of this squadron ; another troop, with Lieut. - 
Colonel D. G. M. Campbell and the headquarters of the regi- 
ment, halted at the northern outskirts of the village, and the 
machine-gun section was posted in an orchard to the west 
of it. A patrol presently reported the advance of a German 
squadron, one hundred and twenty strong, which came up 

1 Appendix 39. 


at a canter in one rank towards Colonel Campbell's party. 7 Sept. 
Unfortunately the machine gun jammed immediately ; 1 1914 - 
but Colonel Campbell with about thirty men charged 
at once at top speed. The Germans did not increase 
their pace to meet the shock and were completely over- 
whelmed, as far as the narrow front of the 9th Lancers 
extended. Colonel Campbell was wounded, but the sur- 
vivors were rallied and led back into Moncel ; the Germans, 
fearing a trap, did not follow. Further to the right, a 
squadron of the 18th Hussars working its way forward on 
foot was charged just beyond Faujus (2J miles south of 
Choisy) by a weak German squadron, 2 which it practically 
annihilated by rapid fire at two hundred yards' range. 
Sixty -three of the 1st Guard Dragoons were killed or 
wounded in this affair, and only three escaped ; the 18th 
Hussars had only two of their led horses slightly wounded. 

To the west of the cavalry, the Wiltshire, in their ad- 
vanced position across the Grand Morin near Le Chamois 
(4 miles west of Coulommiers), were attacked at 6 A.M. 
by some two hundred dismounted men of the Guard 
Cavalry Division, whom they beat off without any difficulty. 
The 2/South Lancashire, also, making their way forward to 
cover the right of the Wiltshire, were engaged by the enemy 
in the woodlands and suffered some loss. Cyclist patrols 
of the III. Corps ascertained that by 7 A.M. the ground 
within a radius of 3 miles north and north-west of Crecy 
on the Grand Morin was clear. Aerial reconnaissances con- 
firmed the general impression that the enemy was with- 
drawing northward, though there were still considerable 
bodies both of cavalry and infantry just north of the 
Grand Morin beyond La Ferte Gaucher. 

Acting upon this information the Field-Marshal issued 
orders at 8 A.M. for the Army to continue its advance north- 
eastward across the river in the general direction of Rebais. 
The corps were to march upon as close a front as the roads 
would permit, and on reaching the line Dagny Coulom- 
miers Maisoncelles (6 miles north-west of Coulommiers), 
heads of columns were to halt and await further orders. 
Meanwhile, the Cavalry Division moved northward, making 
good the course of the Grand Morin as far east as La Ferte 

1 The German account in Vogel is that the gun was spotted, and that 
a sergeant and six men galloped up, drove off' the gun crew and damaged 
the mechanism with a stone ; otherwise the two accounts agree. The 
attackers were Rittmeister von Gayling's (2nd) squadron, 1st Guard Dragoons. 

2 Two-thirds of the 4th Squadron, 1st Guard Dragoons ("Deutsche 
Kavallerie," p. 99). 


Gaucher; it met nothing but a few patrols, but ascer- 
tained that a German cavalry brigade and a battery had 
re-crossed the Grand Morin at 3 P.M. The 5th and 3rd 
Cavalry Brigades also pushed northward, the former on 
Rebais, the latter on Coulommiers. The 3rd met with 
some little resistance at the bridges over the Grand Morin 
just east of Coulommiers, and its guns came into action to 
silence some German artillery on the north bank of the 
stream, and to shell retiring parties of the enemy. This 
caused some delay, but the brigade was able to pursue its 
way 4 miles towards Doue, where it was checked by 
infantry and machine guns. The 5th Cavalry Brigade, 
with little hindrance, between 5 and 6 P.M. reached Rebais, 
whence the German rear parties retired leaving a few 
prisoners in the hands of the British. 

Behind the cavalry screen, the infantry continued its 
march without serious incident ; and there was cheering 
evidence of the enemy's demoralization. The country near 
the roads was littered with empty bottles ; and the in- 
habitants reported much drunkenness among the Germans. 
Indeed, some British artillery drivers while cutting hay 
discovered German soldiers, helplessly drunk, concealed 
under the topmost layer of the stack. The arrival of the 
44 First reinforcements " had also tended to raise the spirits 
of the men. 

Sketch 6. The positions taken up by the Army for the night of 
Map 24. the 7th beyond and along the Grand Morin were as follows : 

5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades, North of the Grand Morin on 
and 4th (Guards) Brigade the west side of Rebais. 

Cavalry Division . , . . South of the Grand Morin at 

Choisy, Feraubry. 

3rd Infantry Brigade . . La Bochetiere (1J miles south- 
east of Choisy). 

I. Corps (less 3rd and 4th South of the Grand Morin from 
Brigades) Jouy sur Morin to St. Simeon. 

II. Corps North of the Grand Morin from 

Chauffry to Coulommiers. 

III. Corps North of the Grand Morin from 

Giremoutiers to La Haute 

Maps 4 Throughout this day the Fifth and Sixth French 

&24. Armies continued to make good progress. By evening 

General Franchet d'Esperey, with three out of his four 


corps across the Grand Morin, had reached the line 7 Sept. 
from Charleville (7 miles south-east of Montmirail) to 1914 - 
La Ferte Gaucher ; while General Maunoury, having ad- 
vanced to the line Penchard fitrepilly Betz, some five 
miles west of the Ourcq, was able to report that German 
artillery was retiring to the western bank of that river. 1 
Aerial reconnaissance indicated that von Kluck was with- 
drawing two of his corps (//. and IV.) with all haste north- 
ward ; and, from identifications by contact during the day 
and the fact that two German cavalry divisions had been 
seen between 5.15 and 6.30 P.M. moving into bivouac at 
Orly (3J miles north and a little west of Rebais), with yet 
more cavalry passing northward to the east of them, 
it seemed as if the enemy was trusting to the /. and 
//. Cavalry Corps 2 to hold the British in check during 
a change of dispositions. But the Marne lay in the way of 
any German movement northward, and the congestion 
reported at the bridge of La Fert6 sous Jouarre was such 
as to offer good results from a rapid advance towards that 
point. It was also reported, however, that a considerable 
force of the enemy lay at Pierre Levee (5 miles south- 
west of the bridge) to guard against any such attempt. 3 
Indeed, the left of the British III. Corps had not been 
allowed to take up its position between Maisoncelles and La 
Haute Maison, some two or three miles only from Pierre 
Levee, without being shelled. The 8th September, there- 
fore, promised to be an important day. 

General Joffre's General Order No. 7, issued at 5.20 P.M. 
on the 7th September, directed the Armies on the left to 
follow the enemy with the bulk of their forces, but in such 
a manner as always to retain the possibility of enveloping 
the German right wing. For this purpose, the French 
Sixth Army was to gain ground gradually towards the north 
on the right bank of the Ourcq ; the British forces were to 
endeavour to get a footing "in succession (sic) across the Petit 
" Morin, the Grand Morin and the Marne " ; the Fifth Army 
was to accentuate the movement of its left wing, and with 
its right support the Ninth Army. The road Sablonnieres 

1 The fighting on the western flank during the battle of the Marne 
between the French Sixth Army and the German First Army is known 
as the " Battle of the Ourcq." 

2 It is again recalled that each of these cavalry corps contained at 
least five infantry (Jdger) battalions besides cyclist companies and machine- 
gun companies. (See Appendix 7.) 

3 Four Jager battalions and a cavalry brigade according to Kuhl's 
" Marne," p. 207. 


Nogent PArtaud Chateau Thierry, allotted to the 
British, was made the boundary between them and the 
Fifth Army. 

Accordingly, on the evening of the 7th September, the 
Field-Marshal issued orders x for the advance to be con- 
tinued against the line of the Marne from Nogent PArtaud 
to La Ferte sous Jouarre : the cavalry to push on in pur- 
suit, keeping touch with the French Fifth Army on the 
right, and with the Sixth Army on the left. The Grand 
Morin was already behind the British, but before the Marne 
could be reached, the Petit Morin had to be crossed : a 
stream running through a narrow valley, with steep, 
wooded sides, approachable only through close, intricate 
country, studded with innumerable copses, villages and 
hamlets, and with only six bridges in the section in 
question. The Marne itself runs through a valley of 
similar character, though on a larger scale, so that the 
ground was all in favour of the enemy's rear guards. 


Sketch 6. The cavalry moved off at 4 A.M. covering the front of 
^ e ^* an< ^ ^* ^ or P s * ^ n ^ ne Cavalry Division, the 1st and 
2nd Brigades made for the line of the Petit Morin from 
Bellot (due north of La Ferte Gaucher) westward to La 
Tretoire, with the 4th Cavalry Brigade in support. Gough's 
5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades on its left headed for the river 
from La Tretoire to St. Cyr. The 5th Dragoon Guards, at 
the head of the Cavalry Division, moved by La Ferte 
Gaucher on Sablonnieres, a little to the west of Bellot, and 
driving scattered parties of German horsemen before them, 
plunged down into the wooded valley of the Petit Morin. 
The two bridges at Sablonnieres were reported to be lightly 
held, but a direct advance upon them was found to be 
impossible owing to the enemy's rifle fire ; and an attempt 
to turn the position from the east by way of Bellot was also 
checked. At the western bridge, to which the approach 
lay over the railway bridge, the 4th Dragoon Guards of 
the 2nd Cavalry Brigade tried to carry both by a rush, 
and secured the first, but were foiled at the river bridge 
which was barricaded. On their left, 3 miles further 
westward, a reconnoitring party of the Greys discovered 
just south of the river, near Gibraltar (1J miles S.S.W. of 
Orly), half a battalion of Jager and a cavalry brigade com- 

1 Appendix 40. 


fortably eating their breakfasts. Stealing back unper- 8 Sept. 
ceived they were able to indicate this target to a section of * 
J Battery at Boisbaudry, which broke up the German 
picnic abruptly with shrapnel, and sent the enemy fleeing 
across the valley with considerable loss. German artillery, 
however, forbade any further advance of the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade, and the 5th was likewise brought to a standstill. 
On the left of it again, the 5th Lancers of the 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade penetrated into St. Cyr, and D Battery did some 
execution among the Germans retreating before them. But 
very soon the enemy counter-attacked, drove the 5th 
Lancers out of St. Cyr, and stopped further progress by a 
heavy crossfire of artillery from the high ground above 
Orly (opposite Gibraltar). D and E Batteries, being in an 
exposed position, were for the time out of action, for their 
teams could not come up to shift them, and the detach- 
ments were obliged to leave their guns and take cover. By 
about 8.30 A.M. the whole of the British cavalry was at a 
standstill, the hostile rear guards being too strong and too 
well posted to be dislodged until further forces arrived. 

On the extreme left, infantry of the 4th Division ascer- 
tained between 3 and 4 A.M. that the enemy had evacuated 
Pierre Levee, which defended the approaches to La Ferte 
sous Jouarre ; and at 6 A.M. the 12th and 19th Infantry 
Brigades advanced, the former upon Jouarre, the latter on 
its left upon Signy Signets. Aerial reconnaissances about 
this hour reported a great number of the enemy massed 
about La Ferte sous Jouarre, waiting their turn to cross the 
river, whilst the passage of infantry over the bridge was un- 
ceasing. 1 But the movement of the British was necessarily 
slow, for there were many copses and coverts to be cleared 
in front, and a large belt of wood the Bois de Jouarre on 
the right flank. No serious opposition however was en- 
countered until about 11 A.M., when the leading battalion 
of the 19th Infantry Brigade had passed beyond Signy 
Signets and reached the ridge overlooking the Marne, 
where it was caught by artillery fire from the heights just 
north-west of La Ferte sous Jouarre. No great damage was 
done ; and the German guns were soon silenced by two 
batteries of the XXIX. Brigade R.F.A. But the brushing 
away of the enemy's advanced troops revealed the German 
main body holding the north bank of the Marne in strength, 
with a bridgehead, well provided with machine guns, at La 

1 According to the maps in von Kuhl's " Marne," the whole of the 5th 
Division passed through La Ferte sous Jouarre on the 8th. 


Fert sous Jouarre. 1 It was thus evident that the passage 
of the Marne would not be easily forced ; and there was 
nothing for the moment to be done but to bring the artillery 
forward to knock out the machine guns, and to seek a way 
round. This was exasperating, for heavy columns of the 
enemy were still crossing the river at La Ferte, and masses 
of men were in sight on the northern bank, but out of 

Meanwhile on the right of the Force, shortly before 9 
A.M., the advanced guard of the 1st (Guards) Brigade (the 
I/Black Watch and the 117th Battery R.F.A.) reached the 
edge of the plateau above Bellot, and passed down a narrow 
defile into the valley of the Petit Morin, German shrapnel 
bursting over their heads as they marched. The 118th and 
119th Batteries unlimbered near the crest of the hill, and 
soon silenced the German guns. By 9.30 A.M. the Black 
Watch reached Bellot, where they found French cavalry in 
possession but unable to advance ; pushing through the 
village, they crossed the river and entered the woods on its 
north side. They then turned westward upon Sablonnieres 
to facilitate the crossing there, but were stubbornly opposed 
by dismounted cavalry and the Guard Jager, until the 
Cameron Highlanders, with dismounted troopers of the 4th 
Cavalry Brigade, came to their assistance. The advent of 
the Camerons was decisive ; and soon after 1 P.M. the 
British were masters of Sablonnieres and of over sixty 
German prisoners. 2 

While this was going forward, the 2nd Division, next on 
the left, headed by the 4th (Guards) Brigade and the 
XXXVI. and XLI. Brigades R.F.A., had come up to La 
Tretoire at the edge of the plateau overlooking the Petit 
Morin, and had been greeted, like the 1st Brigade, with 
continuous shrapnel fire from batteries on the heights 
opposite in the vicinity of Boitron. The British guns soon 
compelled the Germans to move ; but skilfully placed 
machine guns made the advance of infantry across the river 
valley a very difficult matter ; and the 3rd Coldstream 
tried in vain to make their way down to the water. The 
Irish Guards were sent to their help, but could make no 

1 According to von Kluck, La Ferte was defended by the 2nd Cavalry 
Division, with the 9th west of it ; according to von Altheim's " l ste Garde- 
Dragoner Regiment im Kriege, 1914-18," the 5th was at Orly and the Guard 
at Boitron. The retirement to the north of the Marne was ordered by von 
der Marwitz at 10 A.M. ("Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 102). 

2 According to Vogel, the troops which defended Bellot and Sablon- 
nieres were the Garde-du-korps and Garde-Kilrassiere regiments and part 
of the Garde-Jdger battalion. 


progress ; and both battalions were withdrawn whilst the & Sept. 
valley was further searched by artillery. The XLIV. 
Brigade R.F.A. came into action, and also the 35th Heavy 
Battery, near La Tretoire. About noon the two battalions 
again advanced, whilst on their left the 2 /Worcestershire, 
at the head of the 5th Infantry Brigade, moved down 
on Becherelle (1J miles N.N.W. of La Tretoire), east of 
which was a bridge ; and on their right the 2/Grenadiers 
and 2/Coldstream on La Forge, where there was another 
bridge. This attack on a front of nearly a mile and a half 
was pushed successfully as far as the road which runs 
parallel with the Petit Morin on its southern bank. The 
Worcestershire then carried the bridge near Becherelle, 
capturing a few prisoners in the farm close to it ; and, with 
the approach of this battalion on his right flank and of the 
two battalions of Guards on his left, the enemy retired. 
Thus, before 2 P.M. the passage of the Petit Morin had been 
forced at the eastern extremity of the line ; and the 
Cavalry Division was able to cross the valley and push 
northward. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade pursued the hostile 
guns a short distance, taking some prisoners and inflicting 
appreciable losses ; whilst the 4th Cavalry Brigade, reliev- 
ing it at 3.30 P.M., struck the flank of a German column seen 
on its left retiring northward from Orly and did some 
execution with its guns. 

The I. Corps was now free to send help further to the 
west ; and not before it was needed. The 8th Infantry 
Brigade 1 had come up to the support of the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade about Gibraltar between 9 and 10 A.M., but could 
make no progress. The enemy was entrenched on the 
slopes on the north side of the Petit Morin about half a mile 
west of Orly, and his machine guns were so cunningly hidden 
that field guns could not find them. It was noon before 
howitzers could be brought up, but even then the machine 
guns could not be located, and they rendered a frontal 
attack impossible. Further west the 13th Infantry Brigade 
and the 121st Battery had joined the 3rd Cavalry Brigade 
between 8 and 9 A.M. ; and two battalions were deployed 
for attack on St. Cyr. But the fire from the enemy's con- 
cealed batteries was exceedingly trying, and little or no 
progress was made. Soon after 9 A.M., therefore, the 14th 
Infantry Brigade, which was halted at Doue, was sent for- 

1 Only about two thousand strong in spite of " first reinforcements," as 
a result of the heavy losses of the 2/Royal Irish and 4/Middlesex at Mons, 
and of the I/Gordons at Le Cateau. 



ward to the attack of St. Ouen, a mile east of St. Cyr. 
The Duke of Cornwall's L.I. and the East Surreys led the 
way, advancing in open formation for two miles under 
shrapnel fire till they reached the valley and plunged into 
the dense wood that shrouded the descent to the river. So 
steep was the declivity and so thickly tangled the under- 
growth, that the Cornishmen, though little opposed, were 
obliged to work down to the water man by man and re-form 
by the railway at the foot of the slope. They found before 
them two seemingly impassable streams, traversed by a 
single continuous bridge which was swept by two machine 
guns. After a time, however, a foot-bridge was found over 
one stream and a ford through the other ; and thus the 
battalion was able gradually to effect its passage. The 
East Surreys crossed just as slowly by means of a single 
boat ; but Lieut. -Colonel Longley used the time thus 
afforded to discover the exact position of the enemy's 
trenches and then attacked them in flank, whilst the Duke 
of Cornwall's cleared St. Ouen and occupied the village of 
St. Cyr. 

It was now nearly 3 P.M. The river had been crossed 
on both sides of Orly (2J miles east of St. Cyr), and the 
enemy's position at that place became perilous. In the 
2nd Division, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light 
Infantry and the Connaught Rangers of the 5th Infantry 
Brigade turned westward from Becherelle after they had 
crossed the Petit Morin, and approached Orly from the east. 
The 4th (Guards) Brigade had pushed on 3 miles from 
the river to the cross roads about Belle Idee on the Mont- 
mirail La Ferte sous Jouarre main road, almost behind 
the German position. The 60th Howitzer Battery now 
began to search the woods with high-explosive shell, with 
the result that German cavalry and infantry soon emerged 
from their cover within close range of the Guards at La 
Belle Idee and were heavily punished ; the few that 
remained in the wood were enveloped by the 3/Coldstream 
and Irish Guards and shot down or captured. Such fugi- 
tives as made their escape were pursued so vigorously by 
the shells of the British guns that the infantry could not 
follow up its success. Meanwhile the 8th Infantry Brigade 
began again to press upon Orly itself from the south, and 
the 9th Infantry Brigade from the east ; and about 4 P.M. 
the village was captured and one hundred and fifty prisoners 1 
with it. Simultaneously, the Cyclist Company of the 5th 

1 Guard Schiitzen and men of the 5th Cavalry Division. 


Division reached the main road, La Ferte sous Jouarre 8 Sept. 
Montmirail, 3 miles west of the point where the 4th 1914 - 
(Guards) Brigade had struck it, and came upon the flank of 
two hundred German Guard Schutzen, and after five minutes' 
fighting compelled them to lay down their arms. Unfor- 
tunately, a battery of the 3rd Division which had been 
pushed forward to north of Orly, peppered both captors and 
captured so energetically with shrapnel that all but seventy 
of the prisoners were able to escape. Both divisions how- 
ever of the II. Corps pressed northward from Orly and 
St. Ouen as soon as they could, and by dusk the head 
of the 3rd Division was at Les Feucheres (1J miles east 
of Rougeville), and the head of the 5th Division at 
Rougeville, where they were within less than a mile of the 

The reaction of these operations on the right made 
itself felt about La Ferte sous Jouarre between 3 and 4 P.M. 
The guns of the 4th Division had come up about noon, and 
had shelled the bridges at La Ferte and the ground in front 
of Jouarre very heavily. 1 The 108th Heavy Battery of 
the 5th Division, unlimbering at Doue (4J miles S.S.E. of 
Jouarre) and firing by the map, silenced one troublesome 
battery near Jouarre and another some distance further 
east. At 1 P.M. the German fire ceased opposite to the 4th 
Division ; and soon after 2 P.M. orders were issued for the 
llth and 19th Infantry Brigades to advance on the bridge 
at La Ferte" over the Petit Morin, and for the 12th Infantry 
Brigade to move upon that of Courcelles (1 mile north-east 
of Jouarre) about a mile and a half to the eastward. 
Courcelles was quickly evacuated by the enemy at the 
approach of the 2/Essex and 2/Inniskilling Fusiliers, who 
thereupon moved on to La Ferte, where both bridges were 
found to have been blown up. These battalions were 
joined there by the King's Own, who had already cleared 
Jouarre, and by some of the Welch Fusiliers. The Germans 
firing from the houses made some show of resistance, but 
by dark the portion of the town that lies south of the Marne 
had been cleared of the enemy and was in full occupation 
of the British. 

The day's operations now practically came to an end. 
Troops of the I. Corps did indeed advance as far as Basse- 
velle, midway between the Petit Morin and the Marne ; but 
at 6 P.M. a very sultry day ended in a violent thunderstorm 

1 La Fert6 sous Jouarre lies in the valley, on the Marne ; Jouarre is 
on the height above it, on the south side of the valley. 


with such torrents of rain as made it difficult either to see 
or to move. Nearly the whole of the 8th had been spent 
in forcing the passage of the Petit Morin. The ground was 
ideally suited to a rear-guard action, and the enemy's 
positions were well chosen, and most skilfully and gallantly 
defended. It is difficult to say precisely what number of 
Germans held the river ; but it is certain that there was 
all of von Richthofen's Cavalry Corps, and at least half of 
von der Marwitz's, including seven or more infantry bat- 
talions amply supplied with machine guns, and a consider- 
able force of artillery. 1 The total loss of the British 
was under six hundred killed and wounded, against which 
were to be set some five hundred Germans captured, 
at least the same number killed and wounded, and 
about a dozen machine guns taken in the trenches by the 
river. 2 

Sketch 6. The troops halted for the night, all south of the Marne, 

Map 25. i n the following positions : 

Cavalry Division * . . Replonges. 

I. Corps . . . . . Basse velle, Hondevillers (2J 

miles south of last named), 

II. Corps Les Feucheres, Rougeville, 

Charnesseuil (1J miles west 
of Bussieres), Orly. 

1 The latest account, Baumgarten-Crusius's '* Deutsche Heerfiihrung 
im Marnefeldzug, 1914," p. 118, states : " On 8th September the line of 
44 the Petit Morin was to be held. This was a failure (misslang). The 

' 9th Cavalry Division was pulled out early to act as battle-cavalry 
' behind the centre of the Ourcq front, where a break-through was 
4 apparently threatening. The 2nd Cavalry Division together with rear- 
4 guard battalions of the 11. and 111. Corps managed to bar the Marne 
' for a little time longer. But further to the east the screen was torn 
* aside. The /. Cavalry Corps about midday was thrown back from 
' the Petit Morin over the Dollau (which enters the Marne from 
4 the south just above Chezy) with considerable loss. The attempt 
' to stand there failed. The 5th Cavalry Division withdrew north- 
' westwards over the Marne (at Nanteuil, according to the sketch), the 
" Guard Cavalry Division eastward on Cond6 (7 miles south-east of Chateau 
" Thierry), rear guards on the Dollau. ... A gap of 21 miles was thus 
44 occasioned between the First and Second Armies. To close it the 
" First Army detailed Kraewel's brigade, and the 9th Cavalry Division 
44 was sent back to General yon der Marwitz." 

A few lines lower down it is mentioned that the 2nd Cavalry Division 
had four Jager battalions. 

2 Vogel speaks of 4 ' the celebrated heavy-in-losses and important 
fight at Orly." The Guard and 5th Cavalry Divisions were engaged ; 
44 many of the companies of the Guard Jager and Schutzen came out of 
action with only 45 men." 


III. Corps Grand Glairet (1 mile west of 8 Sept. 

3rd Cavalry Brigade Jouarre), Venteuil Chateau 1914. 

(1 mile south of La Ferte 
sous Jouarre), Signy Signets. 

5th Cavalry Brigade . . . Between Gibraltar and Rebais. 

The news that came in at nightfall from the French Maps 4 
Armies on the right and left was less satisfactory than on & 25 
the 7th. To the eastward the French Fifth Army had made 
good progress and had encountered no very serious opposi- 
tion. On its extreme left the XVIII. Corps had crossed the 
Petit Morin to L'Epine aux Bois (4 miles west of Mont- 
mirail), and the rest of the Army was extended from Mont- 
mirail eastward to Champaubert, beyond which General 
Foch's Ninth Army stretched from St. Prix (3 miles south 
of Champaubert) to La Fere Champenoise. To the west- 
ward the Germans, having been strongly reinforced by 
the troops withdrawn by von Kluck from the south, were 
offering a determined resistance to the French on the 
Ourcq ; and General Maunoury, in spite of all efforts, had 
failed to gain ground. Indeed, his centre had actually been 
forced back, and he had been obliged to recall the French 
8th Division, which should have linked his right to the 
British Army, from the east to the west bank of the Ourcq. 
From this information it became evident that the quicker 
the advance of the British upon the left flank and rear of 
von Kluck, the speedier would be General Maunoury 's 
deliverance, and the more telling the damage inflicted upon 
the Germans. 1 

The Special Instruction No. 19, issued by General Joffre 
at 8.7 P.M. on the 8th September, drew attention to the fact 
that the right wing of the German Army was now divided 
into two groups, connected only by some cavalry divisions, 
supported, in front of the British troops, by detachments of 
all arms. It was therefore important to defeat the German 
extreme right before it could be reinforced by other formations 
released by the fall of Maubeuge. This task was confided 
to the Sixth Army and the British. The Sixth Army was 
to hold on to the troops opposing it on the right bank of 
the Ourcq, whijst the British forces crossing the Marne 
between Nogent 1'Artaud and La Ferte sous Jouarre were 
to advance against the left and rear of the enemy on the 
Ourcq ; the Fifth Army was to cover the right flank of the 
British Army by sending a strong detachment against 
Chateau Thierry Azy. 

1 The German account of the day's fighting will be found on p. 296. 



Maps 4, The orders issued by the British Commander-in-Chief 
25 & 26. on ^e evening of the 8th September directed the Army to 
continue its advance northward at 5 A.M., attacking the 
enemy rear guards wherever met, the cavalry maintaining 
touch with the French Armies to right and left, as before. 1 
It had been expected that the Germans would offer stubborn 
resistance on the line of the Marne, which, with its steep 
wooded sides, presented very favourable ground for a rear- 
guard action ; but it was already tolerably evident from 
the reports of the Flying Corps on the 8th that this was not 
their intention. Their main bodies were by evening in 
bivouac between Nanteuil (5 miles north-east of La Ferte 
sous Jouarre) and Chateau Thierry, and there were signs 
during the afternoon of troops moving hastily northward 
from this area. Not even were the bridges destroyed, except 
those of La Ferte sous Jouarre, Sammeron (2 miles west 
of La Ferte), and Changis (3 miles west of Sammeron). The 
llth Hussars, who had reconnoitred towards the bridge over 
the Marne at Charly and found it occupied by the enemy 
on the evening of the 8th, ascertained that the Germans 
had retired during the night leaving the passage clear. 



Maps 4 Early on the 9th September therefore the 1st Cavalry 
& 26. Brigade was pushed forward on Nogent and Charly, and by 
5.30 A.M. it was in possession of both bridges, whilst the 
4th Cavalry Brigade seized that at Azy further to the east 
and 3 miles below Chateau Thierry. The two brigades 
then moved about three miles northward from Nogent to 
Mont de Bonneil to cover the passage of the infantry. By 
7.30 A.M. the Queen's, the leading battalion of the 3rd 
Infantry Brigade, the advanced guard of the 1st Division, 
had passed the Marne at Nogent and was crowning the 
heights north of the river. The 6th Infantry Brigade, with 
the XXXIV. Brigade R.F.A., the advanced guard of the 
2nd Division, on reaching Charly found a barricade on the 
bridge which took three-quarters of an hour to remove. 
By 8.15 A.M. however it also had secured the high ground 
north of the river without fighting. By 10.15 A.M. the 3rd 

1 Appendix 41 . 


Infantry Brigade had pushed on to Beaurepaire Farm 9 Sept. 
(2J miles north of Charly) without seeing a sign of 1914 - 
the enemy. The 1st Cavalry Brigade had already made 
good the next ridge to the north, and the 3rd Infantry 
Brigade had advanced about another mile to Les Aulnois 
Bontemps, when the advanced guards received orders to 
stand fast. The Flying Corps had reported large hostile 
forces halted north of Chateau Thierry and others moving 
westward upon Domptin, just west of the position of the 
3rd Infantry Brigade. 1 

The whole of the I. Corps was therefore ordered to halt 
until the situation could be cleared up ; and such of the 
artillery of the 2nd Division as had not crossed the Marne 
was directed to remain in observation on the south bank of 
the river, and the 5th Infantry Brigade to entrench there. 
The rest of the Cavalry Division joined the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade to the left front of the 3rd Infantry Brigade early 
in the afternoon, and a few men of the German rear parties 
were cut off and captured. The remainder of the 1st 
Division crossed the river at Nogent, and in due time the 
2nd Division also, at Charly. But no further advance was 
made by the I. Corps until 3 P.M., when both divisions 
moved forward until their heads reached the vicinity of 
the Chateau Thierry Montreuil road at Le Thiolet and 
Coupru respectively. They then halted and billeted in 
depth along their roads of advance. 


The II. Corps found the Marne bridges at Nanteuil and Maps 4 
Saacy intact ; the 3rd Division crossed by the former, the & 26> 
5th Division by the latter. Before 9 A.M. the vanguards of 
both divisions had established themselves on the heights 
of the northern bank, and the 9th Infantry Brigade, which 
with a brigade of artillery formed the advanced guard of 
the 3rd Division, at once sent forward two battalions to 
Bezu les Guery, two and a half miles from the river. The 
vanguard (the Fifth Fusiliers), pushing on for another 
mile to Ventelet Farm, found the ridge before it clear of 
the enemy. By 10.30 A.M. Brigadier-General Shaw had 
fixed his headquarters at Bezu ; and all seemed to be 

1 From an article in the " Militar Wochenblatt," 73/1920, it would 
appear that the troops near Chateau Thierry were the main body of the 
17th Division, and those moving west the 5th Cavalry Division, which on 
the 9th September was at Marigny, 7 miles west of Chateau Thierry. 


going well. On the left of the 3rd Division also everything 
appeared at the outset to promise an easy advance for the 
5th Division to Montreuil (2 miles north-west of Bezu, on 
the Chateau Thierry La Ferte sous Jouarre main road), at 
which point it would cut off the Germans who were defend- 
ing the passage of the Marne about La Ferte. No sooner, 
however, did the 14th Infantry Brigade show itself about 
La Limon (1 mile north of Saacy) than it was greeted by 
heavy shell fire from concealed batteries at various points. 
The Germans were using against the British the tactics of 
L Battery and the 119th Battery at Elouges. Harassed 
by bursting shells on front and flank, the 14th Infantry 
Brigade, with the 65th (Howitzer) Battery and the 80th 
Battery, began its advance upon Montreuil. The direct 
road from Saacy along the bank of the northward bend of 
the Marne, via Mery, being too much exposed to the German 
fire, the brigade moved through the woods half a mile to the 
east, while the batteries unlimbered south of La Limon. 
The growth of small trees was so dense that it was ex- 
tremely difficult for the men to keep touch and maintain 
direction, and consequently progress was slow. In fact the 
14th Infantry Brigade was swallowed up by the woods for 
more than an hour. 

Meanwhile about 11 A.M. Brigadier-General Shaw at 
Bezu, to the east of this attack, observing that the British 
batteries were unable to silence the German guns opposing 
the 5th Division, sent two companies of the Lincolnshire to 
work through the woods west of Bezu and try to capture the 
German guns upon Pisseloup Ridge (1 mile west of Bezu). 
The Lincolnshire crept up unseen to within a hundred and 
fifty yards of them, and in a few minutes shot down the 
German gunners and their escort literally almost to a man. 
Dashing out of the thicket to secure the guns, however, 
they were fired upon by the 65th (Howitzer) Battery, and 
compelled again to seek cover, with a loss of four officers 
and some thirty men killed or wounded ; and the guns 
were not captured until next morning. This unfortunate 
mistake arose from the 65th believing that the. German 
battery had been silenced by some other British artillery, 
and that the men of the Lincolnshire were German gunners 
returning to their abandoned guns. 

Just about this time 11.30 A.M. the Cornwall L.I. at 
the head of the 14th Infantry Brigade at last emerged from 
the woods, and were fired upon by German infantry in 
position to the south of Montreuil. Thereupon, the brigade 


was ordered to attack towards the north, on a front of two 9 Sept. 
battalions, with the left flank on the road from Mery to 1914> 
Montreuil ; while the 15th Infantry Brigade was directed 
by 5th Division Headquarters to move round further to the 
east, by Bezu and Bois des Essertis (J mile north-west of 
Bezu), and attack Hill 189 (immediately to south-east of 
Montreuil) from the flank. The 14th Infantry Brigade 
meanwhile continued its advance, always slowly, owing to 
the density of the woods ; and, on the left, the leading 
companies of the Duke of Cornwall's losing touch of their 
supports, came under heavy fire from infantry entrenched 
on Hill 189 and from two batteries, which were still un- 
silenced, at La Sablonniere and Chamoust (south-west and 
north of Montreuil, respectively). Under this crossfire of 
artillery, the Cornishmen, after struggling for a time to 
work forward, were compelled to fall back, leaving a few 
prisoners behind them ; and the 14th Infantry Brigade was 
thus brought to a dead stop. The Germans at 2 P.M. even 
launched a counter-attack against the left of its line, but the 
effort was at once smothered by the British shrapnel. After 
more than an hour of deadlock, the Norfolks and Dorsets 
of the 15th Infantry Brigade came up between 3 and 4 P.M. 
to the western edge of the Bois des Essertis, on the flank of 
Hill 189, where they were abruptly checked by a violent 
fire from rifles and machine guns and from the battery at 
La Sablonniere. Unable to make progress, they stood fast, 
and engaged in a short-range fight with the German in- 
fantry, which was entrenched within a hundred and twenty 
yards of them. Forty-seven dead Germans were found 
next day in the trenches opposite to the Dorsets ; but the 
15th Infantry Brigade needed the support of artillery, and 
the British batteries could find no positions from which to 
give it. Some time before about 3 P.M. two battalions 
of the 15th Infantry Brigade had been ordered to the left 
via Moitiebard (2 miles south of Montreuil) to discover 
and, if possible, destroy the battery at Chamoust ; but it 
was not until 6 P.M. that an officer of artillery, by a personal 
reconnaissance, at last found the exact position of the 
German guns. They were silenced within ten minutes by 
the 37th (Howitzer) Battery ; but by that time the light 
was waning, and the best of the day was gone. 1 

1 The enemy at Montreuil was at first Kraewel's Composite Brigade, 
hastily formed on the evening of the 8th of two infantry regiments and six 
batteries of artillery from the two divisions of the IX. Corps. General 
Kraewel's instructions were to hold the line of the Marne from Nogent 
to La Ferte (actually the British front) and destroy the bridges (which 


The 3rd Division, when it found that neither the I. Corps 
on its right nor the 5th Division on its left, was coming up 
in line with it, after helping the 5th Division as already 
related, remained from the morning onwards with its head 
at Ventelet Farm on the Chateau Thierry Montr euil road. 
Thus, the road marked the limit of British progress in this 


Maps 4 Further to the west, the III. Corps was delayed by most 
&26 - effective opposition. The enemy was holding the right 
bank of the Marne at all likely points of passage, with 
artillery near Caumont at the top of the big loop of the 
river enfilading the western reach of it nearly as far as La 
Ferte sous Jouarre, and with other guns north-west of the 
town. The only intact bridge was the railway viaduct half- 
way down the above-mentioned enfiladed reach of the 
river. The service pontoons and trestles at the disposal of 
the corps were insufficient to bridge the Marne at any point 
in this section for it was from 70 to 90 yards wide and very 
deep without the help of additional material, and there 
was none to be found ready for use except at La Ferte sous 

Pursuant to General Pulteney's orders, the llth and 
12th Infantry Brigades advanced at 4.45 A.M. in two 
columns, with the intention of repairing the bridges in 
front of them, and if possible of crossing the river and 
establishing a bridgehead north of La Ferte'. They seized 
the high ground at Tarterel, immediately to the east of La 
Ferte, so that artillery could be brought up to deal with 
the German guns and the portion of the town south of 
the river. The broken bridges at La Ferte were, how- 
ever, found by the llth Infantry Brigade to be unapproach- 
able, the buildings adjacent to them on the northern bank 

he did not do), whilst the three cavalry divisions held the Petit Morin 
(which they had already abandoned). He slipped away at 8 p.m. on 
the 9th, leaving the guns of one battery behind him (" Militar Wochen- 
blatt," Nos. 73 and 74 of 1920). 

In the course of the fight, Kraewel's brigade " was supported by the 
" 9th Cavalry Division, which attacked towards Monbertoin, and by the 
" leading troops of the Prussian 5th Division, which had been sent by 
" [First] Army Headquarters to reinforce it, and had marched via Cocherel." 
(Lieut.-Colonel Miiller Loebnitz, formerly of the Great General Staff, in 
" Der Wendepunkt des Weltkrieges," p. 35.) 

Four Jdger battalions and " a detachment of the 3rd Division from 
Mary " (6 miles to the west of Montreuil) were also present according to 
Kuhl's " Marne," p. 207. 


of the river being full of German snipers and machine guns. 9 Sept. 
Attempts to cross by boat further down were also un- 1914 - 
successful. It was extremely difficult to tell which Jiouses 
were occupied, and impossible to deal effectively with them, 
except by howitzer fire ; and the greater part of the fore- 
noon was occupied with dropping shells on the most likely 
ones from Tarter el, and from Jouarre, south of La Ferte. 
Meanwhile, however, the 12th Infantry Brigade pushed two 
battalions up the left bank of the river into the loop between 
Chamigny and Luzancy, and these succeeded in driving 
the Germans from a weir to the west of Luzancy. Then, 
crossing the Marne by the weir, they climbed to the road 
that leads from La Ferte to Montreuil, which was the line 
of the German retreat, but reached it too late to intercept 
any German troops. 

During this movement, shortly before noon, the British 
infantry was withdrawn from the southern half of La Fert6 
and the town was heavily bombarded, with the result that 
the Germans about 2.30 P.M. abandoned the approaches 
to the bridges, which Royal Engineer officers were then 
able to reconnoitre. But it was 4 P.M. or later before 
any effectual repair work could be begun. However, the 
1 /Rifle Brigade followed the two battalions of the 12th 
Infantry Brigade across the weir, and the 2/Inniskilling 
Fusiliers crossed the river higher up by the railway via- 
duct which was still intact. They were shelled as they 
did so, but suffered no loss. The I/East Lancashire and 
the I/Hampshire were ferried across in boats below La 
Ferte, and this tedious operation on a broad and rapid 
river was not completed until 9 P.M., by which time the 
Engineers had sufficient barrel piers, etc., ready at site to 
supplement the pontoons and begin the construction of a 
floating bridge. When darkness fell on the 9th, ten of the 
sixteen battalions of the III. Corps were still on the south 
side of the river : the 10th Infantry Brigade being at Grand ' 
Mont Menard (2 miles east of La Ferte), the King's Own (12th 
Brigade) at Luzancy, the Somerset Light Infantry (llth 
Brigade) at Les Abymes (just south of La Ferte) and the 
19th Infantry Brigade between Jouarre and Signy Signets. 

The positions of the Army at the end of the day were as sketch ( 
follows, extending from Chateau Thierry (exclusive) through Ma P 20. 
Bezu and La Ferte sous Jouarre to Jouarre. 

Cavalry Division . . . Lucy le Bocage, Domptin. 
5th Cavalry Brigade . . .La Baudiere (half a mile west 

of Domptin). 


I. Corps Le Thiolet, Mont de Bonneil, 

Domptin, Coupru. 

II. Corps Bezu, Crouttes, Caumont. 

3rd Cavalry Brigade . Grand Mont Menard (south of 

the Marne). 

III. Corps Luzancy, Grand Mont Menard, 

Jouarre, Chamigny. 

The left of the French Fifth Army had reached the 
northern edge of Chateau Thierry, in line with the British. 
Maps 4 The 9th September, though we now know that the 
& 26< advance of the B.E.F. was the decisive factor in influen- 
cing the Germans to abandon the field of battle, 1 seemed 
at the time a disappointing day for the British, and the 
more so since General Maunoury, having been hard pressed 
on his left and left flank throughout the 8th, had asked for 
a brisk attack against the left flank and rear of von Kluck. 
Had the entire British line been able to come up level 
with the 9th Infantry Brigade when it reached the road 
from Chateau Thierry through Montreuil to Lizy sur Ourcq 
at 9 A.M., great results might have followed, for von Kluck's 
left was well to south of Lizy. But the I. and III. Corps 
on either flank were checked until late in the day. Not 
until 5 P.M., after a hard day's fighting, in which he had 
been reinforced by every man that General Gallieni could 
spare him from the Paris garrison, was General Maunoury 
able to report that von Kluck was retiring north-eastward, 
covering his retreat with his heavy artillery. 

Reports from the Flying Corps in the evening confirmed 
General Maunoury 's statement that the road from Lizy 
sur Ourcq north-eastward to Coulombs was filled with one 
continuous column of marching Germans. 2 Everywhere 
else along the great battle line from Verdun to the Ourcq 
the same retrograde movements of the enemy were reported. 
Sketch 5. The gigantic struggle of the 6th to the 9th September, 
known as the battle of the Marne, in which, so far as can be 
ascertained, 49 Allied divisions, with eight cavalry divi- 
sions, contended against 46 German divisions, with seven 
cavalry divisions, 3 was over, and with it all the hopes of 
the rapid knock-out blow with which Germany had counted 

1 See p. 303. 

2 It would seem that this was von Kluck's 5th Division retiring to 
Crouy Coulombs to assist the cavalry and Kraewel's Composite Brigade 
in stopping the British advance (see " Militar Wochenblatt," 12/1920). 

8 Palat, vi. p. 464, says 1,275,000 Germans against 1,125,000 Allies. 
The Germans lost 38,000 prisoners and 160 guns. 


on winning the war against her unprepared opponents. 9 Sept. 
Tactically it was not fought to a finish, but strategically its 1914 - 
results were far-reaching, so that it must be regarded as one 
of the decisive battles of the world. 1 Its general result is 
well summarized in a proclamation issued by General 
Franchet d'Esperey on the evening of the 9th September 
to the Fifth Army : 

" Held on his flanks, his centre broken, the enemy is 
" now retreating towards the east and north by forced 
" marches." 

In the area between Verdun and Paris the Armies of 
Generals Sarrail and de Langle de Gary on the right had held 
their ground against the German Fifth, Fourth and part of 
the Third Armies, just as Maunoury had against the First 
Army ; in the centre, the right of General Foch's Army had 
been driven back by the left of the German Second Army 
and the right of the Third (he was about to restore the situa- 
tion by a division transferred from his left to his right, when 
the German retreat made this unnecessary) ; but General 
Franchet d'Esperey, and with him Foch's left, to which he 
had lent the X. Corps, had been entirely successful, and 
after severe fighting had hurled back the western wing of 
von Billow's Army, which first faced south-west and west 
instead of south, and then retreated. 2 

On Franchet d'Esperey's left, the B.E.F. had driven 
back a strong screen under General von der Marwitz, a 
body of troops little inferior in numbers to itself, composed 
of four cavalry divisions (including at least eight J tiger 
battalions), the 5th Division, a composite brigade of the 
IX. Corps, rear guards of the //. and IV. Corps, and a 
detachment of the ///. Corps. 3 In ground eminently ad- 
vantageous to the defence, it had forced the passage of 
the Marne and other rivers, and had not only interposed 
itself between the German First and Second Armies, but 

1 Falkenhayn (p. 1) tells us that the removal of von Moltke from 
the post of Chief of the General Staff which followed (see p. 365, below), was 
concealed so that the change of leadership should not give the enemy 
propaganda " further ostensible proof of the completeness of the victory 
obtained on the Marne." 

2 It may be added that the German Sixth and Seventh Armies, opposed 
to Generals Dubail and de Castelnau in Lorraine, were also in difficulties. 
Von Moltke, according to Foerster (p. 34) wrote in a memorandum : 
" The Seventh Army, just as little as the Sixth, was unable to advance 
" to the Moselle in spite of a long and heavy struggle. . . . Both Armies 
" reported definitely that the enemy opposite them always had superiority 
" in numbers." 

3 All these formations are definitely mentioned in different German 


whilst the former was fully engaged in front with Maun- 
oury's Army, had turned its left flank. The Germans had 
no choice, as von Kluck's Chief of Staff admits, 1 except 
between complete disaster to their right wing and retreat, 
in order to make good the 25 miles gap in their line of battle. 
This gap was certainly first created by their own action, 
but it was widened and exploited by the French Fifth Army 
and the B.E.F. 

The advance of the British has been adversely com- 
mented upon as slow and hesitating by several French 
writers. 2 It has been pointed out 3 that owing to the delay 
in General Joffre's order reaching Sir John French, the 
B.E.F. retired on the 5th, instead of advancing, and there- 
fore started two marches behind where the French expected 
it to be on the morning of the 6th. The average advance 
on the 6th was eleven miles ; on the 7th nine, and included 
crossing the Grand Morin ; on the 8th, ten, and included 
crossing the Petit Morin ; and on the 9th, seven, and 
included crossing the Marne. In view of the previous 
labours of the B.E.F., the difficulties of the ground, and 
the opposition of the enemy, no more could be expected. 4 

As will be seen from the German account of the battle 
of the Marne, the advance of the British Expeditionary 
Force was the main factor in determining the German 
Second Army to abandon the struggle. 5 


Sketch 5. Without knowledge of what happened on the German 

Maps 4, side, the end of the battle of the Marne is something of an 

25'& 3 26 4 ' ern g ma " Although the information available is not quite 

complete, and two of the officers principally concerned in 

the decision to retreat Generaloberst von Moltke and 

Oberst Hentsch are dead, the three Army commanders 

of the right wing von Kluck, von Billow and von Hausen 

and von Kuhl (von Kluck's Chief of the Staff) have 

written their versions ; and Generalmajor von Baumgarten- 

1 See p. 300. 

2 E.g. General Palat. He adds, however, " It seems likely that their 
" confidence in themselves and particularly in us, had suffered in the 
" first encounters, which were so little encouraging " (vol. vi. p. 248). 

3 See p. 272. 

4 Cf. von Kluck's ten-mile advance against the British rear guards 
on the 1st September, when no line of defence interposed, p. 247. 

6 See p. 303. 


Crusius has compiled a lengthy account from official 5 Sept. 
sources, containing operation orders and extracts from 1914 - 
the war diaries, and more recently has published extracts 
from a statement written by Hentsch, which practically 
tell the whole story. 1 The lengthy German apologia must 
necessarily be given here in a very condensed form. 

On the evening of the 5th September, the German First 
Army had four corps and two cavalry divisions south of Map 22. 
the Marne, along the Grand Morin, and a flank guard of one 
corps and one cavalry division north of the Marne near 
Meaux, facing west. Part of the latter force, advancing to 
clear up the situation, had come in contact with General 
Maunoury's troops during the afternoon. At 10 P.M. von 
Kluck gave the following orders preparatory to getting into 
position between the Marne and Oise to face Paris. They 
were to take effect at 5 A.M. next day. Whilst his left corps, 
the IX., and the flank guard stood fast, the other three 
corps were to face about, and begin wheeling to the right 
on the IX. Corps. Very full directions were given as 
regards transport, which was to be got clear at once ; and 
the withdrawal was to be covered by the 2nd and 9th 
Cavalry Divisions and weak rear guards of the //. and IV. 
Corps on the Grand Morin. In detail, the ///. Corps was to 
march to La Ferte Gaucher, the IV. to Doue and the //. 
in two columns to Isles les Meldeuses and Germigny, in the 
loop south of the Marne, north-east of Meaux. 

On receipt during the night of the information that the 
IV. Reserve Corps had been in action with strong French Map 23. 
forces, instructions were sent to General von Linsingen, 
commanding the //. Corps, to start as soon as possible to 
its assistance, and his two divisions crossed the Marne 
at Vareddes and the Ourcq at Lizy, respectively, and co- 
operated with the IV. Reserve Corps on the 6th. During 
the day, the IV. Corps also, instead of halting at Doue, was 
moved back over the Marne north of La Ferte sous Jouarre, 
and at 10.30 P.M. was ordered to make a night march to the 
assistance of the right wing. Thus by the morning of the 
7th, the //., IV. and IV. Reserve Corps were engaged against 
Maunoury, but the ///. and IX. Corps were still south of 
the Marne. 

During the 6th September the rear guards of the //. 
and IV. Corps, and the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions were 

1 Since the above was written, Hentsch' s statement and other docu- 
ments and evidence in connection with the case have been published in 
"Die Sendung des Oberstleutnants Hentsch" (Berlin, Mittler). 


in action against the British. The ///. and IX. Corps were 
attacked by the French Fifth Army, and the IX. was only 
extricated from envelopment by the intervention of the 
Second Army, under whose orders von Kluck had tempor- 
arily placed these two corps. Meanwhile, the Second Army, 
in accordance with O.H.L. instructions, was wheeling gradu- 
ally to the right, so as to face Paris on the line Montmirail 
Marigny le Grand ; its left thus came into collision with 
General Foch's Ninth Army. 

By the morning of the 7th von Kluck seems to have 
Map 24. become thoroughly alarmed. According to von Billow, he 
sent him the following messages, which von Kluck does not 
give or allude to in his own book : 

10.10 A.M. " //., IV. and IV. Reserve Corps heavily engaged 
" west of the Lower Ourcq. Where are the ///. and IX. ? What 
" is the situation there ? Reply urgent." 

11.15 A.M. " Assistance of ///. and IX. Corps on Ourcq is 
" very urgent. Enemy considerably reinforced. Send corps 
" in direction La Ferte Milon and Crouy." 1 

At 1.15 P.M. von Kluck issued orders to these corps also 
to press forward to the Ourcq battlefield as fast as possible 
and by the shortest route. He states that, " owing to the 
" increasing gravity of the situation, divisions had to be 
" thrown in simply as they became available, and thus 
" became separated from their corps." He therefore formed 
four groups under the four corps commanders, Sixt von 
Armin, von Quast, von Lochow and von Linsingen. 

The effect of the change of front of the whole First Army, 
which from facing south beyond the Marne now faced west 
beyond the Ourcq, and of the simultaneous wheel back of 
the Second Army to the right to face south-west towards 
Paris, was to create a gap in the German front from west 
of Montmirail to Lizy on the Ourcq some twenty miles. 
To fill the gap there were available only the Guard and 5th 
Cavalry Divisions of von Richthofen's Corps and the 2nd 
and 9th Cavalry Divisions of von der Marwitz's Corps. To 
support them von Kluck on the 8th September sent the 
5th Division, Kraewel's Composite Brigade formed .of units 
of the IX. Corps, and part of the 3rd Division. 

As his divisions came up von Kluck endeavoured to out- 
flank Maunoury from the north, and, in view of the British 
Maps 25 advance, ordered the destruction of the Marne bridges. 
& 26. [ e was nearly captured, as he himself tells us, on the evening 
of the 8th near La Ferte Milon by a raid of General Cornulier- 

1 Billow, p. 56. 


Luciniere's Provisional Cavalry Division. 1 Of the Second 7-8 Sept. 
Army von Billow says : " Although the fight on the 8th 1914- 
" September made further progress in the centre and on 
" the left wing, 2 no decisive result was achieved. The un- 
" supported right wing, 1 3th Division and X. Reserve Corps 
" on the other hand, in order not to be enveloped, had to 
" be withdrawn in the evening to the line Margny Le 
" Thoult." 3 Von Biilow now, on the evening of the 8th, 
seems to have lost heart. Aeroplanes had reported the 
advance of the British columns " northwards via Rebais 
" and Doue (3rd and 5th Divisions) ; a third column (4th 
" Division) advancing north-eastwards from La Haute 
" Maison " ; 4 and Franchet d'Esperey was continuing the 
attack on his right, with one column wide on the west 
moving to outflank him. He says, " in these circumstances 
'* the probability of a break-through of strong enemy forces 
" between the First and Second Armies had to be reckoned 
" with, unless the First Army decided to retire in an easterly 
" direction and regain touch with the Second Army" Far 
from doing so, it was attacking westwards. Von Billow's 
map shows the French Fifth Army and the British Expedi- 
tionary Force breaking in between him and von Kluck and 
enveloping his right, and the latter's left wing, on either 
side of the gap, a sufficiently alarming situation to face. 
This situation would become even more critical on the 9th 
September, if the pressure developed. Von Kluck, how- 
ever, had a piece of luck, as one of his brigades (LepeFs 
belonging to the IV. Reserve Corps) which had been left 
behind in Brussels came up and appeared almost behind 
Maunoury's left flank. He, as reported by General von 
Kuhl, his Chief of the Staff, took a totally different view of 
the situation from von Biilow. 5 

" On the right wing of the First Army a successful decision 
" was certain. The Army had been so disposed that the 
" enemy's (Maunoury's) northern flank was enveloped and 
" a brigade was to be sent to interrupt his line of retreat. 
" On the 9th the fight was making favourable progress 
" and the enemy had begun to give way. A decision was 

1 See Kluck, p. 119 ; and Hethay, " R61e de la Cavalerie Fran9aise," 
p. 148 et seq. 

a Against General Foch, with the assistance of the XII. Reserve Corps 
and 52nd Division and 2 3rd Reserve Division of the German Third Army. 

8 See p. 304. Col. Hentsch reported that the right wing of the Second 
Army was " driven back not drawn back." 

4 Biilow, pp. 59, 60. 

5 " Militar Wochenblatt," No. 39/1919. 


" certain to be obtained by next morning : we were 
convinced of it. ... Generaloberst von Kluck had not 
underestimated the danger of an advance of the British 
into the gap between the First and Second Armies. He 
did not, however, consider that much could be expected 
from the British troops. After their long retreat and 
many defeats, they could, he thought, be effectually 
held up on .the Marne [which they were not]. Even if 
they succeeded in advancing, the victory over Maunoury 
" on the 10th would compel them to make a hasty retreat. 
" Further, the British would not dare to make an un- 
" supported advance whilst the French were being defeated 
" on their left, and their communications with the sea 
" threatened. Even if the right wing of the Second Army 
" were forced back, it would not affect the final issue : 
" rather, if the victory of the First Army were decisive, 
" it would make the enemy's position more precarious." 

Von Kuhl himself, writing later, takes a somewhat 
different view. He says : " After it was established that 
" the Second Army had decided in the morning to retire and 
" at midday the troops were already in retreat, as there was 
" no means of reversing this decision, the First Army Com- 
" mand had to conform. Even a victory over Maunoury 
" could not prevent us from having our left flank enveloped 
" by superior force, and from being driven away from the 
" main army. The First Army stood isolated." x 

All this time, from the 5th to the 9th September, 2 no 
orders came from the Supreme Command, which was 
established more than 130 miles away at Luxembourg, in 
no better communication with the Armies than was possible 
by wireless and by liaison officers in motor cars. 3 Much of 
its attention seems to have been directed towards the 
Russian front. Tannenberg had been fought (26th-29th 
August) and Samsonov's Army annihilated, but the battle 
of the Masurian Lakes against Rennenkampf was beginning 
only on the 8th September. On the south-east front, 
though the Austrians had had some small initial successes 
on the left at Krasnik (25th August), and Komarow(26th 
August to 2nd September), the Russians had steadily 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 219. 

2 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 187. 

8 The grave delay in the transmission of wireless messages was due 
to there being only one receiving station at O.H.L. and to interruptions 
by weather and the Eiffel Tower. They arrived in such a mutilated 
state that they had to be repeated three or four times. Kuhl's " Marne," 
p. 28. 


pressed on, and had routed the Austrians at the first battle 4 Sept. 
of Lemberg (31st August to 2nd September), and on the 6th, 1914 - 
the very day of the commencement of the battle of the 
Marne, continuing their offensive, they began the battle of 
Grodek (6th to 12th September) and drove the Austrians 
headlong across the San. 

From the evidence of the German operation orders, 
it would appear that up to the 4th September the Supreme 
Command assumed that in France all was going well and 
according to plan. On the right, the First and Second 
Armies were forcing the French away from Paris south- 
eastwards ; on the left the Sixth and Seventh were pressing 
on to the Moselle. In the centre the Third, Fourth and 
Fifth Armies were " heavily engaged against superior 
forces " ; but strategically their slow progress was of 
advantage, because it gave time for the wing Armies to 
move forward and envelop the enemy. It looked as if 
the French would either be surrounded in the open field, 
or if by withdrawal they evaded the " pincers " preparing 
for them, would be driven up against the Swiss frontier. 

In the orders of the 4th September, 7.45 P.M., 1 the 
failure to enclose all the French Armies and the B.E.F. was 
recognized. " The enemy has evaded the envelopment of 
" the First and Second Armies, and part of his force has 
" joined up with those about Paris." The First and 
Second Armies were therefore detailed to face Paris and 
act against any attack from that direction, whilst the 
Fourth and Fifth Armies were to press south-east and the 
Sixth and Seventh take the offensive westwards against 
the Troupe des Charmes between Toul and Epinal, so as 
to drive together, enclose and capture the French Armies 
of the right that were opposing them. Thus von Moltke 
seems to have conceived two separate battles, one near 
Paris, and the other near Verdun. The Third Army was 
to be prepared to take part in either, as required. 

So important did he consider the attack in Lorraine, that 
when the threat from Paris began to materialize, he still 
persevered there, instead of sending every man who could 
be spared from the left to the vital right wing in accord- 
ance with the original plan. For this purpose there were 
trains actually waiting on the sidings. It was not until 
the 9th September that orders were given for the transfer 
of the XV. Corps from the Seventh Army to the west. 
So confident was Great Headquarters of success, that 

1 See p. 266. 


arrangements were actually made on the 7th for the visit 
of the Kaiser to his victorious Armies, and he was due to 
be at Second Army headquarters on the evening of the 
8th, 1 when a meeting of a very different kind took place 
there, as will be seen. 

No orders were sent to the First and Second Armies 
from O.H.L. on the 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th it seems to have 
still assumed that all was going well near Paris ; the 
critical aspect of the situation there and the imperative 
necessity of co-ordinating the operations of the Armies 
forming the German right wing escaped its attention until 
the 8th September, when after a five days' battle the 
attempt of the Sixth and Seventh Armies to break through 
in Lorraine and cross the Moselle had to be abandoned. 

In its dilemma, the Supreme Command on the morning of 
the 8th September despatched Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch of the 
Intelligence Section of the General Staff to visit the Fifth, 
Fourth, Third, Second and First Armies a round trip of 
some 400 miles to bring back a clear idea of the situation, 
and with full powers, but without instructions in writing, 
to order in the name of O.H.L. such movements as he 
might decide on in order to co-ordinate the retreat, " should 
rearward movements have already been initiated." 2 
Possibly he was told to be guided by the views of General- 
oberst von Biilow, the senior of the three Army commanders 
on the right wing. 

Colonel Hentsch went to the Fifth and Fourth Armies, 
which were in general holding their own, and then to the 
headquarters of the Third Army in Chalons, where he 
arrived in the afternoon of the 8th. He reported the situa- 
tion of that Army to O.H.L. as thoroughly satisfactory. 
He reached the headquarters of the Second Army at 
Montmort (13 miles E.N.E. of Montmirail) on the evening 
of the 8th and spent the night there. Judging by von 
Billow's version of the situation, which has already been 
given, he must have found gloomy company. Neither von 
Biilow nor Hentsch seems to have known that the First 
Army was, as von Kluck now states, hoping for 9, decisive 
victory next day ; the last news that he had sent on the 
evening of the 8th was that he was still engaged with strong 
forces on the line Cuvergnon Congis. 3 

1 Baumgarten-Crusius, p. 110. For an account of the operations in 
Lorraine see the " Army Quarterly," vol. ii. p. 312. 

2 " M.W.B.," 12/1920. 

3 That is, facing west, west of the Ourcq (von Biilow, p. 59). Cuvergnon 
is near Betz, Congis near Lizy. 


Hentsch's report of what occurred at Second Army 8-9 Sepi , 
headquarters is as follows : 1 1914 - 

" I discussed the situation thoroughly with General- 
" oberst v. Billow, General von Lauenstein (his Chief 
" of Staff) and Oberstleutnant Matthes (Operations) on 
" the evening of the 8th September in the Chateau of 
" Montmort. We weighed every possibility for avoiding 
" a retreat ; the tone of the Army Staff was calm and con- 
" fident. At 5.30 A.M. on the 9th September I examined 
" the situation once again with General von Lauenstein, on 
" the basis of the reports that had come in during the night. 
" After the First Army had withdrawn the ///. and IX. 
" Corps from the Marne to its right wing, there was no 
" other possibility but to go back across the Marne at 
" once." 

Von Billow gives more definitely the reasons that forced 
the retreat upon him. He adds to what he had already 
said on the evening of the 8th : 2 " When early on the 9th 
" September numerous enemy columns crossed the Marne 
" between La Ferte sous Jouarre and Chateau Thierry, 
ic there remained no doubt that the retreat of the First 
" Army was, for both tactical and strategical reasons, 
" unavoidable, and that the Second Army must also go 
" back, in order not to have its right flank completely 
44 enveloped." 

From this statement of von Billow, it seems clear that 
it was the advance of the B.E.F. which had influenced him 
in making the decision to retreat. This view is confirmed 
by a statement of an officer of the German Great General 
Staff, 3 as follows : 

" At Second Army headquarters the order for retreat 
" was given without consultation with the two neighbour- 
" ing Armies, and only after an aeroplane report had come 
" in of the advance of five long columns against the Marne 
" between La Ferte sous Jouarre and Chateau Thierry. 4 
" Generaloberst von Billow now sent a wireless message to 
" the First Army that he was beginning the retreat behind 
" the Marne between Damery and Epernay. Lieut.-Colonel 
" Hentsch had left before this happened, to order the retire- 
" ment of the First Army to the north-east." 

1 " M.W.B.," 12/1920. See p. 299. 

3 Lt.-Col. Miiller-Loebnitz, formerly of the Great General Staff, in 
" Wissen und Wehr," p. 449/1920. 

* Six British columns and a French cavalry column directed on Azy 
were moving against this section. 


Von Billow's decision was recorded in a message sent 
to O.H.L. as follows : 

" Retirement of First Army behind the Aisne compelled by 
" strategic and tactical situation. Second Army must support 
" First Army north of the Marne, otherwise the right wing of 
44 the force will be driven in and rolled up." 

After a counter-attack, claimed as successful, by the 
centre and left, the Second Army commenced its retirement 
44 about 1 P.M." (German time). In anticipation of this, a 
wireless message, received at 1.4 P.M. (German time), 1 was 
sent by von Biilow to the First Army as follows : 

' 4 Aviators report advance of four long enemy columns 
44 against the Marne. Heads at 8 A.M. Citry Pavant 
44 Nogent TArtaud. Second Army is beginning retirement 
44 right flank Damery." 2 

Meanwhile, Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch had motored to 
First Army Headquarters at Mareuil, which he reached 
shortly after 12.30 P.M. (German time). 44 Owing to panics 
" behind the line," 3 he took seven hours to travel the 60 
miles that separated them from those of the Second Army. 
There, as von Kluck bitterly complains, he did not see the 
Army commander, but had a long conference with General- 
major von Kuhl, the Chief of the Staff. A full account of 
the interview is given in the German First Army War 
Diary. 4 According to this, Hentsch stated : 

Sketch 5. 44 The position is not favourable. The Fifth Army is 
Map 2. " fi rm ly held up in front of Verdun, and the Sixth and 
" Seventh also, on the line Nancy Epinal. The Second 
" Army is a mere remnant : the decision for its retreat 
44 behind the Marne cannot be altered. Its right wing 
44 was driven back and not withdrawn voluntarily. It is 
" necessary, therefore, to readjust the whole line to the rear 
44 simultaneously : Third Army to north of Chalons, 
44 Fourth and Fifth Armies in touch with one another 
44 through Clermont en Argonne towards Verdun. The 

1 Kluck, p. 121. This is no doubt the wireless message mentioned 
just above. 

2 Damery was corrected twenty hours later to Dormans. Citry is 
opposite Crouttes. Pavant is between Nogent and Crouttes. The four 
long columns were the British 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Divisions. Baum- 
garten-Crusius, ii. p. 122, says this message was sent at 11.45 (German 

" M.W.B.," 12/1920. 

4 Baumgarten-Crusius, p. 134, and Kuhl's " Marne," p. 218. Von 
Kuhl says that he made his report to von Kluck whilst Lt.-Col. Hentsch 
waited outside for that commander's decision ; so that apparently von 
Kluck could have seen Hentsch had he wanted to do so. 


" First Army must also retire direction Soissons Fere en 9 Sept. 
" Tardenois ; and if absolutely necessary, still further, even 1914 - 
:c as far as the line Laon La Fere. A new Army is being 
" assembled at St. Quentin, so that fresh operations can 
" be begun." 

General von Kuhl urged that the attack of the First Maps 4 
Army was at that moment in full swing and that retreat & 26 - 
would be a difficult matter, as formations were much mixed 
and the troops very tired. Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch replied 
that, nevertheless, no other course was open but to retire, 
at any rate, as far as Soissons, with the left wing behind the 
Aisne, and emphasized that his instructions were to be 
operative in spite of any further information which might 
be received, as he had " full full-powers (voile Vollmacht)" 

General von Kuhl states that, " in spite of lively pro- 
11 tests, the headquarters of the First Army had to obey 
" and, with heavy hearts [at 2 P.M. (German time)], issued 
" orders for the retreat." 

Hentsch's account is somewhat different. 1 It is : 

;c The situation of the First Army about midday [when 
" the conference took place] was such that the left wing 
" had already received the order to go back to the line 
" Crouy Coulombs. 2 

" The possibility of the Second Army holding the line 
of the Marne was therefore out of the question ; it must 
" go further back, if its flank and rear were not to be en- 
' veloped by the British on the 10th at latest. 

1 "M.W.B.," 12/1920. 

8 That is, across the Ourcq and to face south against the British. 
Crouy is on the Ourcq about ten miles north of La Fert6 sous Jouarre, 
where the British 4th Division, the left of the B.E.F., crossed the Marne, 
and Coulombs is 8 miles east of Crouy. Von Kluck's map shows the 
5th Division, 3rd Division and IV. Reserve Corps on this line. Von Kuhl 
(" Marne," p. 217) admits that this order sent at 10.80 A.M. reached Lin- 
singen's Group, but says it contained a telephone mistake. What was 
intended was that he should " bend the left flank back over the Ourcq and 
" send the 5th Division against the British in the direction Dhuisy (2 miles 
" south-east of Coulombs)." He says Linsingen withdrew to May en Multien 
Coulombs, the same line as Crouy Coulombs but extended, westwards 
to May. His situation map for 9th September shows von Kluck's right 
attacking south-west from Betz, and the First Army line then curving 
south-east of May en Multien and then east to Coulombs, with the 5th 
Division attacking south-east to support Kraewel's Composite Brigade. 
Hentsch's statement that orders for retirement were issued before he 
arrived at von Kluck's headquarters is confirmed by two officers of Lepel's 
brigade (extreme west flank), writing in the M.W.B. of 12th Nov. 1921. It 
is therein said that the orders for the brigade to retire were sent "in the 
forenoon of the 9th." The italics of "already" are his. Orders to von 
Linsingen to swing back his left to face the British went out at 11.30 A.M. 
(German time). 



" My question, whether the Second Army could not be 
" assisted at once, was replied to in the negative, on account 
" of the situation on the left wing. 

" General von Kuhl then said that ' the position of the 
" ' right wing was favourable : the IV. and IX. Corps were 
" * attacking, and had every prospect of a success. More 
" * was not yet known.' ' 

But Hentsch adds : 

" I know, however, for certain that just at this time, 
" a report from the IV. Corps came in that it could not carry 
" out the attack, as it was itself attacked by strong forces. 
" I also know for certain that I asked General von Kuhl 
" if the First Army would not be in a position to support 
" the Second with its whole force next day [10th September], 
"if it succeeded in defeating its own immediate enemy 
" on the 9th. This was negatived on account of the state 
" of the Army." * 

During the evening of the 9th September the Third 
Army received a wireless message from O.H.L. ordering it 
to remain south of the Marne. At 9.30 P.M. Lieut. -Colonel 
Hentsch again arrived at Third Army headquarters at 
Chalons on his way back to O.H.L. at Luxembourg. He 
informed Third Army headquarters that the order to 
remain south of the Marne had been issued by O.H.L. 
under a misapprehension of the situation on the German 
right and that, as the First and Second Armies were, as a 
matter of fact, retreating next day, the Third Army should 
act on its own responsibility and not read O.H.L. order 
literally. 2 On this view of the situation the Staff of the 
Third Army had come to a decision to retreat, when at 
10.30 P.M. a direct order was received from O.H.L. by 
wireless, instructing the Third and Fourth Armies to attack 
as early as possible on the 10th September. In compliance 
with this order, the Third Army resumed the offensive, 
which soon became abortive, owing to the withdrawal of the 
Second Army on its right in accordance with the decision 
made by Generaloberst von Bulow. 

It was not until 1.15 P.M. on the 10th September that 
von Biilow learnt that O.H.L. approved of Hentsch's 

1 Von Kluck, p. 123, says that Hentsch gave the reasons " shaking clear 
" from Maunoury, reorganization of the corps [divisions and brigades were 
" mixed up], replacing ammunition and supplies, sending off the Train, 
" arranging for security of communications, all measures taking up much 
" time." 

2 Baumgarten-Crusius, p. 139. 


action. He then received the following order, which must 10 Sept. 
have been bitter reading for von Kluck : 1914 - 

" First Army until further orders is placed under com- 
44 mander of Second Army." 

At 5.45 P.M. further orders arrived : 1 Maps 2 

& 4. 
44 Second Army will go back behind the Vesle, left flank 

14 Thuizy (10 miles south-east of Rheims). First Army will 
44 receive instructions from Second Army. Third Army, in 
44 touch with Second Army, will hold the line Mourmelon le 
44 Petit Franch. Fourth Army, in touch with Third, north of 
44 the Rhine Marne Canal as far as Revigny area. Fifth Army 
44 will remain where it is. The positions reached by the Armies 
44 will be entrenched and held." 

On this, von Billow sent the following order to von 
Kluck : 2 

44 The First Army on llth September will retire behind the 
44 Aisne and, covered by the Aisne valley, will close on the right 
44 of the Second Army. The passages of the Vesle valley at 
44 Braisne and Fismes are being blocked by the Second Army 
44 with a mixed brigade at each place." 

Meantime, on the 9th, von Kluck, acting on Hentsch's 
instructions, had issued preliminary orders at 2 P.M., 
followed by others at 8.15 P.M., for a retirement in the 
general direction of Soissons. 

Ludendorff has said, and we may for the moment agree 
with him : 

" Whether the decision of the Second Army head- 
;t quarters and the order of Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch to the 
44 First Army headquarters to retreat were actually 
" necessary from the situation must be decided by historical 
" research in later years." 3 


As the line of retreat of the German First Army appeared 
to lie more or less across the British front, there seemed 
some hope of intercepting it. Acting, therefore, in anti- 

1 Billow, p. 63. 2 Biilow, p. 63. 

3 Memorandum with reference to Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch's responsibility 
for the order to retreat from the Marne, circulated down to Divisional 
Staffs 24th May 1917. In this it was stated that " he acted solely in 
" accordance with instructions given to him by the then Chief of the General 
" Staff of the Field Armies " (" M.W.B.," 12/1920). 


cipation of General Joffre's written instructions which 
arrived next day, to the effect that, in order to confirm 
and take advantage of the success already gained, the 
German forces should be followed with energy so as to 
allow them no rest Sir John French at 8.15 P.M. on the 
9th September ordered his troops to continue the pursuit 
northwards at 5 A.M. the next morning. 1 

The instructions issued by G.Q.G. to General Maunoury 
directed him to continue to gain ground with the Sixth 
Army to the north, supporting his right on the Ourcq, 
so as to endeavour to envelop the enemy's right. General 
Bridoux, who had replaced General Sordet in command of 
the Cavalry Corps, was to extend this action and reach the 
flank and rear of the enemy. The 8th Division was to 
support the left of the British, who, General Joffre hoped, 
would reach the heights south of the Clignon. 

Sketch 6. Low clouds and heavy mists made aerial reconnaissance 
Maps 4, a i mO st impossible until late in the forenoon of the 10th 
September ; the pursuit ordered by Sir John French was 
begun, but it appeared by 7.15 A.M. that the Germans 
were clear of the valleys of the Ourcq and Marne; from 
Ocquerre (2 miles north-east of Lizy) to Changis, nothing 
was visible from the air, except a small convoy and its 
escort on an unimportant road 7 miles north-east of 
Lizy. Meanwhile, the Cavalry Division, under Major- 
General Allenby, on the extreme right of the B.E.F., had 
marched at 5 A.M. to the high ground north-west of 
Bonnes (7 miles north-west of Chateau Thierry), where 
it came under heavy artillery fire from Latilly, about two 
miles to the north, and suffered some loss. The 5th 
Dragoon Guards pushed on to Latilly, but, finding the 
village strongly occupied by German cyclists and cavalry, 
awaited the arrival of the 1st Cavalry Brigade and Z 
Battery R.H.A. ; 2 when they came up the Germans de- 

Proceeding to the summit of a hill a little further north- 
east, the 1st Cavalry Brigade, between 11 A.M. and noon, 
caught sight of the main body of a German rear guard 
five regiments of cavalry, two batteries, a couple of hundred 
cyclists, and five hundred wagons, moving from La Croix 
(2 miles north-east of Latilly) northwards upon Oulchy 

1 Appendix 42. 

2 On 4th Sept. one section each from D and I Batteries were formed 
temporarily into a four-gun battery and called Z ; on 16th Sept. a section 
from J Battery replaced the section from D. When H Battery joined the 
1st Cavalry Division, Z Battery was broken up (28th Sept.). 


le Chateau. This party was not more than two miles away, 10 Sept. 
but, as the ground had been soaked by heavy rain, Z Battery 1914 - 
could not get into action until all but the wagons of the 
column had passed out of reach ; and when it did open fire, 
it was silenced by German guns of greater range. The four 
batteries of the Cavalry Division therefore advanced north- 
eastwards through La Croix, and at 1.30 P.M. again opened 
fire on the convoy. Then a French cavalry division of 
Conneau's Corps, supported by infantry in motor lorries, 
came up from Rocourt (3 miles east of Latilly), fell on 
the flank of the column of wagons, and captured the greater 
part of it. 

On the left of General Allenby's cavalry, the 1st Division 
advanced from Le Thiolet north-north-west upon Cour- 
champs, the 2nd Infantry Brigade leading. Soon after 8 A.M. 
the Divisional Cavalry brought intelligence that the enemy 
was in position beyond Priez, a couple of miles to the north 
of Courchamps on the northern side of the Alland, a small 
stream in a wide shallow valley. The Sussex and North- 
amptons were therefore pushed through Priez, where they 
deployed and began to ascend the hill beyond it. They were 
met by heavy artillery and rifle fire at a range of less than 
a thousand yards, but continued to advance slowly until 
some British battery in rear, mistaking them for Germans, 
also shelled them severely and they fell back on Priez. 
Some of the men in retiring passed by the observing station 
of the 40th Battery and through the intervals between the 
howitzers, drawing the German fire upon both ; Brigadier- 
General Findlay, who was reconnoitring a position for 
his guns, was killed by a shell. There then ensued a lull 
in the fighting during which the 1st (Guards) Brigade, 
heading for Latilly, came up on the right of the 2nd Infantry 
Brigade and the 5th Infantry Brigade on its left, making 
for Monnes against slight opposition. In face of this display 
of force, between 2 and 3 P.M., the Germans began to fall 
back slowly. The British batteries followed them up, but 
did not arrive within effective range until the German 
columns, after crossing the Ourcq, were filing out of Chouy 
(5 miles north of Priez), when both field guns and howitzers 
opened fire on them, apparently with good effect. 

Further west, the two cavalry brigades under Brigadier- 
General Gough, and the 2nd and 3rd Divisions were more 
successful. The 5th Cavalry Brigade led the way, with 
the 20th Hussars as advanced guard covering a front 
of 5 miles from Bussiares (1 mile west of Torcy) to 


Germigny. At 6.30 A.M. a hostile column was sighted 
moving north-eastward from Brumetz (3 miles north of 
Germigny) upon Chezy, while another, composed chiefly 
of wagons, was halted on the slopes between those two 
villages. The brigade therefore moved westwards to 
Fremont (1 mile north-east of Germigny), whence J 
Battery opened fire at long range ; and, as there was no 
reply to this fire, Brigadier-General Chetwode at 9 A.M. 
advanced for about another mile northward to the high 
ground south of Gandelu, whence he sent two squadrons 
of the Scots Greys to clear that village, and ordered the 
12th Lancers to cross the Clignon a little further to the west 
at Brumetz, and to cut off the enemy's retreat. 

Meanwhile, the 6th Infantry Brigade and the XXXIV. 
Brigade R.F.A., which formed the advanced guard of the 
2nd Division, were crossing the valley of the Clignon 
at Bussiares (4 miles east of Gandelu) to the right of 
Gough's cavalry ; and, when Hautevesnes, 2 miles further 
on, was reached soon after 9 A.M., a German convoy could 
be seen a mile or more to the west toiling up the road from 
Vinly in the valley of the Clignon north-westwards towards 
Chezy. Four guns, which formed part of its escort, un- 
limbered on the heights above Brumetz, while the infantry 
took up a position in a sunken road, facing eastward, to 
meet the storm that threatened them from Hautevesnes. 
The British batteries coming into action soon forced the 
German guns to retire; and shortly after 10 A.M. the 6th 
Infantry Brigade was ordered to attack. The 1 /King's 
Royal Rifle Corps deployed and advanced over ground 
which offered not an atom of cover. Nevertheless, the 
riflemen closed to within seven hundred yards of the 
Germans, and at that range pinned them to their cover, 
whilst the 1/R. Berks, on the right, and the 2 /South 
Staffordshire on the left worked round both of their flanks, 
when the whole line of Germans surrendered, having lost 
about one hundred and fifty killed and wounded out of a 
total of about five hundred present. They were found to 
be men of the 4th Jager, the 2nd Cavalry Division, the 
Guard Cavalry Division, and the 27th Infantry Regiment 
of the IV. Corps. 

Meanwhile, in Gough's force the 12th Lancers had 
caught a party of nearly three hundred more, with thirty 
wagons and four machine guns, who had been driven from 
Gandelu by the Greys. Moreover, the 9th Infantry Brigade 
and the 107th Battery, the advanced guard of the 3rd 


Division, coming up between the 2nd Division and the 10 Sept. 
cavalry, had struck into the wood from Veuilly (2 miles 1914 - 
west of Bussiares) north-westward upon Vinly whilst the 
6th Infantry Brigade was attacking from Hautevesnes, 
and had taken another six hundred prisoners, a most 
variegated assortment, consisting of men of the //., ///. 
and IV. Corps 9 of all three J tiger battalions of the 9th 
Cavalry Division, and of Jager battalions of the 2nd and 
4th Cavalry Divisions ; all divisions of von der Marwitz's 
Cavalry Corps were thus represented. These, with the excep- 
tion of a party entrenched to north of Vinly, had offered 
no very serious resistance. The country was, however, 
so close that many Germans were left undiscovered in 
the valley of the Clignon, from which they continued to 
issue for some days to plunder the neighbouring villages 
and oppress the villagers, until they were gradually 

Throughout this little action, General Haig had been 
chafing to act on a message received about 9 A.M. from 
General Maud'huy of the French XVIII. Corps on his 
right, giving him intelligence that fifty-four German heavy 
guns were moving from Lizy sur Ourcq north-eastward 
upon Oulchy and offering to co-operate in capturing them. 
As the heads of both the 1st and 2nd Divisions were sharply 
engaged at the moment, he could give no immediate orders ; 
and the clouds were so low that later in the forenoon, when 
he asked for more exact indications from the Flying Corps, , 
such observation as was possible gave no definite result. 
By 1 P.M. the German column was too far north to be 

West of the 3rd Division, the 5th Division and the 
III. Corps met with no opposition. The former advanced 
to Montreuil early, but Kraewel's Brigade had slipped 
away, and it was too late to cut off any of it except a few 
wounded. The III. Corps, being occupied for the best 
part of the day with the passage of the Marne by a pontoon 
bridge at La Fert sous Jouarre and the railway bridge 
at Le Saussoy, was obliged to content itself with occasion- 
ally shelling distant targets and with the collection of 
stragglers. The British casualties on this day did not 
exceed three hundred and fifty, two-thirds of which were 
incurred by the 2nd Infantry Brigade in its check near 
Priez, and the remainder by the 6th Infantry Brigade in 
its successful action near Hautevesnes. For these the 
capture of some eighteen hundred Germans, including 


wounded, 1 as well as the battery taken by the Lincoln- 
shire, offered some compensation ; and the spirits of 
the troops rose high at the sight of so much abandoned 
German transport and of so many German stragglers, 
all pointing to the beginning of some confusion among 
the enemy. Nevertheless, it was a disappointment that 
the Germans had not been more severely punished. The 
Sketch 6. general advance during the day was about ten miles. On 
Maps 4 the evening of the 10th September the four divisions of 
the I. and II Corps were astride the river Alland, with the 
cavalry in front astride the upper course of the Ourcq, 
and the III. Corps behind the left flank. In detail, the 
positions were : 

Cavalry Division . . Breny, Rozet. 
3rd and 5th Cavalry Macogny (1J miles east of 

Brigades Passy), Marizy, Passy, Mosloy 

(2 miles west of Passy). 

I. Corps . . . . Latilly, westward through Rassy 

to Monnes. 

II. Corps , . . Dammard, St. Quentin, Chezy. 

III. Corps . . . Vaux sous Coulombs, and south- 

ward through Coulombs to 


Sketch 6. On the evening of the 10th September Conneau's Cavalry 
Corps had reached Fere en Tardenois, level with the right 
of the British Cavalry Division ; the French XVIII. Corps 
was abreast of the British I. Corps, but the remainder of 
the Fifth Army was still close to the Marne. On the left 
of the British Army, the French Sixth Army was changing 
front to the north by wheeling up its right, which was 
approaching La Ferte* Milon practically level with the 
British. By General Joffre's Special Instruction No. 21, 
dated 10th September, the British force had definite 
boundaries assigned to it between which it was to advance : 
the road Fere en Tardenois Bazoches (3 miles west of 
Fismes) on the right and La Ferte Milon Longpont 
Soissons (but exclusive of this town) on the left ; these 
involved the Army's inclining half right. Accordingly 

1 The I. and II. Corps took 1,000 prisoners, the III. Corps 500 (chiefly 
wounded and stragglers), and the cavalry 300. The total British casualties 
from the 6th to 10th Sept. were : I. Corps, 779 ; II. Corps, 654 ; III. Corps 
(4th Division and 19th Infantry Brigade), 133 ; Cavalry, 135 ; total 1,701, 


operation orders for the Army on the llth directed it to 11 Sept. 
continue the pursuit north-eastward at 5 A.M., crossing the 1914 - 
Ourcq and making for a line from Bruyeres (3 miles west 
of Fere en Tardenois), north-westward through Cugny to St. 
Remy and thence 2J miles westward to La Loge Farm. 1 
The march proved a troublesome one, for the front allotted 
was so narrow that it was impossible to assign a separate 
road to each division. The advance was covered by the 
cavalry, General Allenby's division making good the ground 
from Fere en Tardenois westward to within about a mile 
of the road from Chateau Thierry to Soissons, and General 
Gough's two brigades the space from that line for some 
three miles further west. The advance of the cavalry 
brought it to a line: Cuiry Housse (6J miles north of 
Fere en Tardenois) through Buzancy to Vierzy (9 miles 
west of Cuiry Housse). No large parties of the enemy 
were seen except a brigade of cavalry at Braisne on the 
Vesle (3J miles north-east of Cuiry Housse) and a party 
of infantry throwing up entrenchments at Noyant (9 miles 
west of Braisne). There were clear indications that hostile 
cavalry had retired in two bodies upon Braisne and 
Soissons, the former in good order, the latter in some 
confusion ; but although wounded and stragglers were 
picked up there was no encounter of any kind with the 

The march of the infantry, therefore, was wholly un- 
disturbed, except for the congestion of the roads the III. 
Corps, in particular, was long delayed by a French column 
and by rain which came down heavily in the afternoon 
and drenched the men to the skin. 

The general advance on the llth was again about ten Sketch 6. 
miles. At nightfall the three centre divisions were across Ma P 28 * 
the Ourcq with the cavalry in front 5 miles from the Vesle, 
and the 1st and 4th Divisions echeloned back on either 
flank. In detail : 

Cavalry Division . Loupeigne (3J miles N.N.E. of Fere 
en Tardenois), westward to Arcy 
Ste. Restitue (4J miles N.N.W. of 

Gough's Cavalry Parcy Tigny (6} miles west of Arcy), 
Brigades north to Villemontoire. 

I. Corps . . . Beugneux (3 miles W.S.W. of Arcy), 
Bruyeres, south-west to Rocourt, 
Oulchy le Chateau. 

1 Appendix 43. 


II. Corps . . Hartennes, south - east to Grand 
Rozoy (just west of Beugneux), 
Oulchy la Ville, Billy sur Ourcq, 
St. Remy (all just north-west of 
Oulchy le Chateau). 

III. Corps . . La Loge Farm to Chouy. 

G.H.Q. . . Coulommiers. 

The inner flanks of the French Armies on either side 
of the B.E.F, were abreast of and in touch with it. 


Sketches Low clouds and rain made aerial reconnaissance so 
* Difficult that the Flying Corps could furnish no reports 
. of value on the 12th. News, however, came that Maubeuge 
had fallen on the 7th, an event which was most opportune 
for the enemy, since it released the VII. Reserve Corps and 
other German troops for work further south. The German 
Armies were falling back, mostly in a north-easterly 
direction, along the whole front as far as the Argonne, with 
exhausted horses, deficient supplies, and signs of failing 
ammunition. It remained to be seen how much further 
the Allies could push their success. There was no sign 
yet of any movement of enemy reinforcements from the 
north, but there were some indications that the enemy 
might hold the line of the Aisne : it was impossible, how- 
ever, to forecast in what strength, and whether as a mere 
rear-guard or as a battle position. 

The situation with which the Allies were now confronted 
was by no means clear. If the retreat of the German 
Armies from the Marne had been followed by disorganiza- 
tion and loss of moral, as appeared probable from the 
numerous stragglers and the mix-up of units evident from 
the prisoners captured, the operation of converting con- 
fusion into disaster must be of the nature of a pursuit. 
If, on the other hand, their power of resistance, though 
diminished by heavy loss, was unbroken, as had been the 
case of the Allies in the retreat to the Seine, the problem 
of completing their discomfiture would involve bringing 
them to action again, and winning a fresh battle before 
pursuit, properly so called, could be resumed. Orders 
quite appropriate to the pursuit of a broken and dis- 
organized enemy can be wholly unsuited to the very 
different problem of beating an unbroken foe. They 
may well lead to the defeat of one's own army, for the 


latter situation clearly demands that battle should be 12 Sept. 
delivered with all one's forces united. 1914 - 

The enemy certainly appeared to be disorganized, 
and there were undoubtedly very weak spots in his front. 
In any case, it was of vital importance that no time should 
be lost, and no opportunity given to the Germans to 
reorganize and to reinforce these vulnerable places. Un- 
fortunately for the Allies, there was heavy rain both on 
the llth and 12th September, and only two reconnaissance 
flights were made on the one day and very few on the 

General Joffre's Special Instruction No. 22, received 
on the evening of the llth, directed the Sixth Army 
(reinforced by the XIII. Corps from the First Army), the 
British Army, and a portion of the Fifth Army specially 
detailed to support the British, to deal with the right wing 
of the German forces, endeavouring always to outflank it 
by the west. To the B.E.F. the boundaries Bazoches 
Craonne on the east, and Soissons Laon on the west were 

According to a wireless message intercepted on the 
llth September, the German 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions 
were south-west and south-east of Soissons, on the night 
of the lOth/llth, their horses exhausted and their move- 
ment blocked by transport. The French XVIII. Corps 
reported that the German retreat in front of it was nearly 
a rout ; otherwise there was no definite information. 

G.H.Q. orders for the 12th were that the pursuit should Sketch 7. 
be continued, and that the crossing-places of the Aisne Ma P 29< 
should be seized and the high ground on the northern side 
of the river secured. 1 The day was dark, with torrents of 
rain which turned the roads into seas of mud, so that 
observation and movement were both equally difficult. 
The cavalry was pushed forward early, and at Braisne 
came to the first obstacle that lay between it and its 
objective, the river Vesle, running from south-east to north- 
west down a broad valley to join the Aisne at Conde*. On 
the right of the British, General Conneau's cavalry had 
already seized the bridge over this stream at Bazoches : 
and reconnaissance revealed that of the bridges on the 
British front, that of Courcelles, next below Bazoches, 
had been destroyed, also one of the two at Braisne and 
that of La Grange Farm, a mile further down-stream. 
The second bridge at Braisne was, however, intact and 

1 Appendix 44. 


defended by German cavalry and infantry. After clearing 
away parties of the enemy from La Folie (the ruins of a 
chateau, 1 mile south-west of Braisne) and Augy (1 mile 
west of Braisne), the 1st Cavalry Brigade about 11 A.M. 
attacked Braisne with all three of its regiments dismounted, 
the battery being unlimbered half a mile north-west of 
Augy to check the arrival of German reinforcements from 
the north. 

For more than two hours there was sharp fighting, 
during which, on the right of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, the 
1st Division had marched down to the bridge at Bazoches, 
and the 2nd Division moved down towards that of 
Courcelles, where the 5th Infantry Brigade, its advanced 
guard, by various expedients, contrived to effect a crossing. 
The Worcestershire and some of the Oxfords at once pushed 
on to the Monthussart Farm (1 mile to the north-east of 
Braisne), reaching it about 1.30 P.M, Just at that time 
the 1st Cavalry Brigade succeeded in driving the enemy 
out of the buildings of Braisne on to the hill beyond it, 
the 9th Infantry Brigade at the head of the 3rd Division 
having previously cleared the outskirts of that village, and 
then advanced on the road to Brenelle. The retreating 
Germans were thus caught first by the fire of the 5th 
Dragoon Guards from the west, and then by that of the 
Oxfords (5th Infantry Brigade) from the east. Such of 
them as survived, about one hundred and thirty in number, 
laid down their arms. A few of them were Guard Uhlans, 
but most of them were of the 13th Landwehr Infantry 
Regiment of the 25th Landwehr Brigade, which though 
Line of Communication troops attached to the Second 
Army, 1 had been hurried to the front. 

Meanwhile, further to the left, the 3rd and 5th Cavalry 
Brigades had proceeded to Serches (4 miles west of 
Braisne) and pushed out advanced parties northward to 
Ciry, and thence north-eastward to the bridge over the 
Vesle leading to the village of Chassemy. The bridge 
was not destroyed, and so lightly held that the 4th Hussars 
soon cleared it and pushed on towards Chassemy.. Being 
shelled, however, when in column of route, they sought 
shelter in the woods to the eastward, and advanced, dis- 
mounted, against the chateau on the heights north of the 
village. The rest of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade then moved 
to the high ground north-east of Chassemy ; and the 4th 

1 This brigade is now known to have been on the extreme right (west) 
of the German Second Army. 


Hussars, together with two guns, were sent down to the 12 Sept. 
valley of the Aisne to endeavour to seize the bridge of 18L4 - 
Vailly. It was now between 3 and 4 P.M. The British 
horse batteries were just picking up the range of the 
German guns which had been shelling the 4th Hussars, 
when two companies of German infantry were reported 
moving south from Brenelle. The 5th and 16th Lancers 
at once opened fire on both flanks of this column while 
the batteries and machine guns engaged it in front. About 
seventy Germans fell, and at 4.30 P.M. the remainder, 
about one hundred in all, surrendered. These also belonged 
to the 13th Landwehr Infantry Regiment, and apparently 
had been sent westwards to reinforce Braisne, but were 
driven by the advance of the 5th Infantry Brigade into the 
jaws of the British cavalry. Meanwhile, the 4th Hussars 
sent to surprise the bridge of Vailly reported it destroyed ; 
and the bridge of Conde, a mile and a half below Vailly, 
though intact, was found to be strongly held. When 
darkness fell, therefore, not a single bridge over the Aisne 
was in British hands. 

The nature of the country high open ground cut by a 
succession of streams flowing through deep valleys was 
chiefly responsible for this, since it made delaying action by 
the enemy an easy matter. Heavy rain, with its inevitable 
result of deep muddy roads, did not help matters for the 
Allies, and the I. and II. Corps were still 2 miles distant 
from the river when they halted for the night. On the left 
the III. Corps had made a great stride forward ; hearing that 
the French 45th Division on its left had become engaged 
with the enemy holding a position covering Soissons, the 
corps advanced in a preparatory formation towards the 
river, but it was 3 P.M. before the leading infantry brigade 
reached the heights of Septmonts (3 miles south-east of 
Soissons) overlooking the valley of the Aisne. The news 
then sent in by the divisional cavalry was interesting : 
the bridge over the Aisne at Venizel, some three miles 
north-east of Septmonts, had been damaged, but was still 
passable both by infantry and cavalry ; the ground to the 
north of it had been entrenched for defence, and a large 
column of Germans l was moving north-east from Soissons 
over the plateau, on the north side of the river. With great 
difficulty the 31st Heavy Battery was hauled to the top of 
the ridge of Septmonts to open fire on this column, and the 
XXIX. Brigade R.F.A. also unlimbered to support an 
1 III. Corps of the First Army. 


advance of the infantry upon Venizel. But all this took 
time ; the light failed early, shut out by a canopy of rain- 
clouds, and darkness had come down before these prepara- 
tions could lead to any result. Major Wilding, commanding 
the Inniskilling Fusiliers, however, on his own initiative, 
had sent down two companies to Venizel bridge, and their 
appearance was the signal for the Germans to attempt its 
demolition. But of four charges laid only one exploded 
and the fuzes of the rest were found and removed after dark 
by Captain Roe by the light of an electric torch, within close 
range of the Germans entrenched on the northern bank. 1 
Sketch 6. The situation at nightfall of the 12th September found 
Map 29. the B.E.F. across the Vesle and close up to the Aisne. 

Cavalry Division . . . Longueval (5 miles east 

I. Corps of Braisne), Dhuizel, 

3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades Chassemy, Ciry Salsogne. 

II. Corps Brenelle, Braisne, Serches, 

Chacrise (3 miles south- 
west of Serches). 

III. Corps ... . . . Septmonts, Buzancy. 

Maps The British Army was on this day in close touch with 
3 & 4. the French Armies on either side of it. On its right the 
French Fifth Army had reached the Vesle along its entire 
front from Beaumont (10 miles E.S.E. of Rheims) to 
Fismes, though Fismes itself had been gained only at the 
cost of heavy losses. On the left, the French Sixth Army 
had advanced to the Aisne along its whole length from 
Soissons to Compiegne, and was making ready to cross the 
river, though every bridge had been broken down. A great 
effort was being made by Bridoux's Cavalry Corps on its 
left to get forward to the Oise between Chauny and Noyon 
to envelop the German right. This operation was the more 
important since there were many indications that the enemy 
intended to make some kind of stand on the line of the 
Aisne, which indeed offered great facilities for defence. The 
river, winding and sluggish except when in flood, and some 
two hundred feet wide, is unfordable ; it runs through.a valley 
which has steep sides covered with patches of wood, but with 
a gently sloping or level bottom from a mile to two miles in 
breadth and over three hundred feet below the level of the 
plateau through which the course of the stream has been cut. 
As in the case of many other valleys in the north of France, 

1 Captain S. G. Roe, Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action 20th 
October 1914. 


the sides form a series of spurs and ravines, wooded on the 9 Sept. 
toes of the spurs and sides of the ravines, and the stream 1914 - 
passes first close to one side and then to the other in its 
winding course. There is little cover on the low ground in 
the valley itself for infantry seeking to force a passage 
from the south, and no position for artillery to support it, 
except on the southern heights. The German artillery 
could harass British troops in the valley at a range of three 
thousand yards, and yet have no British battery within 
closer range than five to six thousand yards. 

In the section opposite the British from Bourg to 
Venizel (both inclusive) there were seven road bridges, an 
aqueduct carrying the Oise Aisne Canal over the river 
at Bourg, and a railway bridge east of Vailly, where a 
narrow-gauge railway which runs along the southern bank 
from the direction of Rheims crosses the river to the northern 
bank on its way to Soissons. All these bridges, except that 
at Conde, were eventually found to be more or less un- 

Whether the enemy was in a position to avail himself 
of the advantages afforded by the line of the Aisne 
remained to be seen. Though the weather had prevented 
air reconnaissance, reports from inhabitants and escaped 
prisoners seemed to show that large bodies of German 
troops had been moving eastward from Soissons on Neuf- 
chatel (15 miles north of Rheims) during the previous 
three days, which indicated that the enemy feared his 
centre might be broken and was making efforts to concen- 
trate more troops in front of the French Fifth Army and the 


The situation in which the German First Army stood Maps 4, 
on the 9th September made its withdrawal northwards a 26 ' 27 ' 28 
comparatively easy task, for it fitted in with the tactical 
exigencies of the moment. Part of its right, in its en- 
deavour to envelop the French, was already facing south, 
and its left (von Linsingen), owing to the British advance, 
had already been ordered back, part over the Ourcq, to 
the line May en Multien Crouy Coulombs. Conse- 
quently all that had to be arranged further was that the 
centre should conform and then all the divisions of the 
Army could retire northwards together. The movement 


of von Linsingen's wing was completed early enough for the 
retirement to be begun before the B.E.F. could come up 
with him. Von der Marwitz with the 2nd and 9th Cavalry 
Divisions, 5th Division and Kraewel's Brigade formed the 
general rear guard. 1 

Map 27. By the night of the 10th September, the German rear 
guards were on an east and west line beyond the upper Ourcq, 
opposite the front of both the B.E.F. just approaching 
that river and the French Sixth Army, from about eight 
miles east of Fere en Tardenois to Crepy en Valois. Next 

Map 28. day von Kluck made a short march to the Aisne ; and 

Map 29. on the 12th he began sorting out his divisions into their 
proper corps, and occupied a line on the heights north of 
the Aisne. This line was in detail : Vailly (von der Mar- 
witz's Cavalry Corps) Vregny (///. Corps) Vaurezis (//. 
Corps) Nouvron (IV. Corps) Autreches (IV. Reserve 
Corps) Tracy le Mont (IX . Corps). The German First 
Army had been shaken, but was not beaten. 

The German Second Army had been severely punished 
by the French Fifth and Ninth Armies, and its right wing 
(the 13th Division) had already been driven back before it 
began the retreat : it may be considered, therefore, a 
beaten army, and it withdrew under pressure. By the 

Map 27. evening of the 10th September, it was, for the most part, 
across the Marne, with its rear guards still south of the river 
from 10 miles west of Chalons to Dormans, its right some 
nine miles south of the left of von Kluck's Army, and with 
an actual gap of 16 miles between them. 

Map 29. The condition and exposed situation of his right wing 
were such a source of anxiety to von Biilow on the evening 
of the 12th September, that he evacuated Rheims and 
withdrew his right, by a night march, north of the Aisne to 
the neighbourhood of Berry au Bac. Thus by the 13th he 
had increased to some eighteen miles the gap between the 
right of the Second Army and the left of the First Army, 
which was at Vailly. In this gap were only three 
cavalry divisions, the Guard, 2nd and 9th, under von der 
Marwitz. 2 

The first and most insistent problem for O.H.L. was how 
to fill the gap before the Allies could reach it in force and 
pierce the German line of battle by separating the First 
and Second Armies. It is not too much to say that the fate 

1 Baumgarten Crusius, ii. p. 161. 

2 The 4th Cavalry Division was on the extreme right of the First Army, 
and the 5th had been sent to the Third Army. 


of the German Armies on the Western front turned on the 12 Sept. 
solution of this problem. The retreat from the Marne had 
already begun to have a demoralizing effect on the troops, 
exhausted as they were by hard and, on the whole, un- 
successful fighting following on the great physical strain 
of the headlong rush through Belgium to the Marne. If 
the gap could not be filled, prudence dictated a continuance 
of the retreat, but that meant a further disintegration of 
units, and in their present condition was an alternative 
to be accepted only in the last resort. The Aisne was a 
good line to stand on, and there if possible a stand must be 
made. Von Moltke hoped to give his Armies eight days' 
rest, bring up reinforcements, and replenish supplies and 
ammunition. 1 No one could forecast what condition the 
German Army would be in if the retreat was unduly pro- 
longed, although von Billow was actually prepared to go 
back to the La Fere line. For to give battle on the Aisne 
would be fatal if the Allies could penetrate between the 
First and Second Armies, and drive the former north-west 
and the latter north-east. It might well be the beginning 
of the end. 

Von Moltke had already placed the First Army under 
von Biilow, and to ensure complete unity of command, 
gave him also the Seventh Army, which was being hurried up 
to fill the gap between the First and Second. On the 12th 
September von Billow ordered the First Army to close on 
to the right of the Second. Von Kluck, as usual, ignored 
the order, and replied at 8.50 P.M. : 

" First Army heavily attacked on the front Soissons 
" Attichy, a battle is expected to'-morrow. It is holding north 
" bank of the Aisne from Attichy to Conde. Left wing can be 
" further prolonged, 2 but any advance towards St. Thierry 
" (5 miles north-west of Rheims) is out of the question." 

According to General von Zwehl, who commanded the 
VII. Reserve Corps, which came up on the 13th on the left 
of the III. Corps, the eastern flank of the First Army was 
then at Ostel, north of Chavonne. The gap between the 
First and Second Armies which was covered by the 
three cavalry divisions was therefore reduced to the 13 
miles between Berry au Bac and Ostel. The Germans began 
entrenching, and von Kluck goes so far as to say that trench 

1 Baumgarten Crusius, ii. p. 176. 

2 He had one division of the III. Corps in reserve north of Conde, 
which he ordered to come up on his left and cover Vailly. 

VOL. I - Y 


warfare commenced on the 12th September 1914. There 
is no indication that any entrenchments were prepared in 
anticipation of a retirement to the Aisne as was rumoured 
at the time. 



Sketch 2. After the first sortie from Antwerp 2 the Belgian Field Army was 
Map 2. employed for some days in assisting the fortress troops to improve 
the defensive works between and in the forts ; the Germans also 
spent the time in consolidating their defences, roughly on an east 
and west line eight miles north of the centre of Brussels, and therefore 
some four or five miles from the nearest forts of Antwerp. From 
the 1st September onwards there were indications of German move- 
ments towards the Belgian western flank on the Schelde at Termonde, 
culminating in an attack on the 4th. It was obvious, however, 
that this was only a feint to cover the withdrawal southwards of part 
of the investing force ; for the Belgian General Staff had information 
that the IX. Reserve Corps and the 6th Division of the ///. Reserve 
Corps were to be moved to France and their places taken by the 
Marine Division and Landwehr formations. On the 5th definite 
news of the movement came in and it was confirmed on the 6th and 
7th. The Belgian Army Command, therefore, considered that a 
favourable moment for the execution of another sortie had arrived, 
with the purpose of compelling the enemy to recall forces despatched 
to take part in the decisive battle in France, or, failing this, to defeat 
the inferior forces in front of Antwerp and to threaten the German 
communications . 

The operations were planned to begin on the 9th September. In 
view of the strength of the German entrenchments, a frontal attack 
was out of the question ; two divisions therefore were detailed to 
cover Antwerp, whilst three divisions and the cavalry turned the 
enemy's right (eastern) flank towards Aerschot. 

The sortie began successfully ; the passages of the Demer and Dyle 
were seized and Aerschot captured ; a troop of cavalry even entered 
Louvain on the 10th. The Germans meanwhile took counter measures ; 
they brought back the 6th Reserve Division permanently, stopped the 
march of the IX. Reserve Corps, and detrained at Brussels, to assist 
in repelling the sortie, the leading division (the 30th) of the XV. Corps 
which was on its way from Alsace to the extreme right flank of the 
German Armies. This division went into action and remained from 
the 10th to 13th in the neighbourhood of Brussels. 3 The Belgian 
advance was brought to a halt, and on the 13th the whole Army 
retired again to Antwerp. The effect of the delay of the IX. Reserve 

1 Mainly from the translated official report, " Military Operations of 
" Belgium, compiled by the Belgian General Staff for the period 31st July 
" to 81st December 1914," and anniversary articles contributed to the 

8 See p. 132. 

8 " Schlachten und Gefechte," p. 14. 


Corps and 30th Division in reaching the front was not actually felt 9-13 Sept. 
in the battle of the Marne, as von Kluck and von Biilow retreated on 1914. 
the 9th before these reinforcements could have reached them, even 
without Belgian interference. The heads of the XV. and IX. 
Reserve Corps began to arrive on the Aisne on the 14th and on the 
Oise on the 16th, respectively, when, as will be seen later, they 
appeared unfortunately just in time to prevent a decisive success of 
the Allies. 




(See Sketch 7 ; Maps 2, 3, 4, 29, 30, 31, 32 & 33) 

Sketch 7. IN order to make the narrative of the battle of the Aisne 
& ^Q S 4 clear, it seems best, for once, to give the German situation 
before the British, although of course it was not at the 
time thus fully known to the Allies. The night of the 
12th/13th September marks the end of the retreat so far 
as the German First and Second Armies are concerned. 
During the closing hours of the 12th those of von Kluck's 
troops (the 5th and 3rd Divisions, IV. Corps and half 
of the IX. Corps), which were still on the south side of the 
Aisne, entrenched on the line Billy (south of Venizel) 
Cuise Lamotte (south-west of Attichy), covering Soissons, 
were withdrawn over the river. The re-sorting of his 
divisions into their original corps from the groups in which 
they had fought the battle of the Ourcq was meanwhile 
carried out. 

During the same night, von Billow, alarmed by the 
forcing of the line of the Vesle by the left of the French 
and right of the British Armies, drew back his right wing 
behind the Aisne, as already described, and collected the 
VII. Corps, which had been much dispersed, on his extreme 
right at Brimont Berry au Bac. Thus, the front of the 
German First and Second Armies now formed a wide 
re-entrant angle, marked by the lines Prosnes (11 miles 
south-east of Rheims) Rheims (exclusive) Berry au Bac 
and Ostel (11 miles E.N.E. of Soissons) Soissons 
Compiegne, but with a gap of 13 miles, at least Berry 
au Bac to Ostel between their inner flanks. Actually 
this gap, which was held by the three cavalry divisions, 







Guard, 2nd and 9th, may have been even greater than von is Sept. 
Kluck admits; for the Guard Cavalry Division was still 1914 - 
holding Vailly on the 13th. 1 Towards the gap were 
advancing the left of the French Fifth Army (the XVIII. 
Corps, Valabregue's Group of Reserve divisions and 
Conneau's Cavalry Corps), and the British I. Corps and 
Allenby's Cavalry Division. 


General Joffre's Special Instruction No. 23, issued on Sketch 7. 
the 12th September and received at British G.H.Q. at Ma P 30 - 
2 P.M., 2 directed the Sixth Army to send the bulk of its 
forces gradually to the right bank of the Oise, so as to make 
sure of outflanking the Germans, but, whatever happened, 
to detail a strong detachment to keep in close touch with 
the British Army. The latter force was to move north 
between Bourg and Soissons. The Fifth Army, equally 
in close touch with the British, was to commence crossing 
the Aisne. 3 

G.H.Qi operation orders issued at 7.45 P.M. on the Map 31. 
same evening, 4 fixed the starting time at 7 A.M., and 
directed that the heads of the three British corps should 
reach a line about five miles beyond the Aisne : Lierval 
(7 miles north-east of Vailly) Chavignon (5 miles north 
of Vailly) Terny (4J miles north of Soissons). The 
destination of the B.E.F. was thus roughly the top of the 
plateau, at this point little more than a ridge, which lies 
between the valleys of the Aisne and the Ailette, and is 
traversed from east to west by the now well-known 
Chemin des Dames. 

1 Vogel, p. 108. Von Zwehl (p. 63) states that the III. Corps, the left 
of the First Army, was attacked as it was moving east to fill the gap, and 
that on his arrival on the 13th " the 5th Division held the heights west of 
" Conde Celle ; the 34th Infantry Brigade (of the IX. Corps, attached to 
" the III.) a position east of Jouy, the 6th Division, the line Aizy La 
" Royere Farm " (on the Chemin des Dames, 2 miles north-east of Aizy). 
Thus the left of the First Army was echeloned back, increasing the gap to 
about sixteen miles. 

2 Appendix 45. 

3 According to M. Madelin, the historian (" Revue des Deux Mondes," 
1918, p. 804 et seq.), the failure of General Maunoury to outflank the 
Germans is attributed to his having to keep touch with the B.E.F., which 
prevented him prolonging his left flank far enough. As M. Madelin 
further states that Sir John French waited during the 13th and 14th 
September whilst his engineers bridged the Aisne, and only decided to 
advance on the 15th, and then only " pour sonder 1'ennemi plus que le 
bousculer," his narrative is not reliable at any rate as regards the British, 
as will be seen later. 4 Appendix 46. 


The orders allotted the crossings of the Aisne as follows : 

Cavalry Division and I. Corps : Bourg, Pont Arcy and 

Chavonne ; 
Cough's cavalry and the II. Corps : Vailly, Conde and 

III. Corps (still without the 6th Division) : Venizel and 

Soissons. The last place, however, was later handed 

over to the French. 

In the III. Corps sector a passage was actually effected 
& 81. on the 12th. Although the girders of the bridge at Venizel 
had been cut by the explosion of the demolition charges, 
the reinforced concrete of the roadway was still sound 
enough to carry light loads. When Brigadier-General 
Hunter- Weston, commanding the advanced guard of the 
4th Division, learnt this, having had orders to cross that 
night if possible, he marched the llth Infantry Brigade 
at 11 P.M. down into the valley and down the wide glacis 
a mile and a half in length that had to be traversed before 
the bridge could be reached. He found on approaching 
it that the German trenches on the bank of the river had 
been evacuated, and immediately commenced the crossing. 
Owing to the state of the bridge, the men were sent across 
in single file, and the ammunition carts were unloaded, 
and these and their contents passed over by hand. 

By 3 A.M. on the 13th the passage was completed, and 
the brigade was then ordered to secure the heights above 
by a bayonet charge. This operation was entirely success- 
ful, and just as day was dawning the German outposts 
on the crest, completely surprised by the sudden appear- 
ance of the British, incontinently abandoned their trenches 
and fell back on their main line some hundreds of yards 
away. Thus, the llth Infantry Brigade, the first British 
formation to cross the Aisne, occupied the edge of the 
plateau from the spur north of Ste. Marguerite westwards 
through a farm called La Montagne to within a mile of 
Crouy, 2 miles north-east of Soissons. It was a most 
satisfactory end to a trying march of some thirty miles 
through the pouring rain, in a temperature more appro- 
priate to November than early autumn, and with little or 
no food for more than twenty-four hours. 

Sketch 7. The morning was still wet and miserable when, on the 

Map 81. extreme right of the British front, the advanced guard 

of the Cavalry Division rode out from its billets and pushed 

two reconnoitring patrols forward to the crossings of the 

Aisne at Villers and Bourg. In every case the road bridges 


over the river were found to have been destroyed, 13 Sept. 
but not those over the Aisne Canal, which lies south of 1914 - 
it. 1 A sharp fire was opened on the British dragoons by 
Germans a sheltered in houses or entrenched along the 
bank of the branch canal which, starting close to Bourg, 
runs north-westwards from the Aisne Canal to the Oise. 
The aqueduct which carries this branch canal across the 
river, however, had been only slightly damaged, and J 
Battery and the XXXII. Brigade R.F.A. 3 came into action 
to support the attack of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade upon 
it. But it was not until assistance arrived from the 1st 
Division that the cavalry was able to effect a crossing. 

Sir Douglas Haig's orders for the 13th had directed 
the I. Corps to continue its advance and, in the first instance, 
to push forward patrols to the river crossings ; the divisions 
were to close up, well concealed and ready to act on the 
information obtained by the cavalry. In the event of the 
enemy seriously disputing the passage of the Aisne, attack 
orders would be issued ; in the event of his continuing 
his retirement, the 1st and 2nd Divisions were to occupy 
ground beyond the river at Bourg, and at Pont Arcy and 
Chavonne (3 miles below Pont Arcy), respectively, with 
their advanced guards covering the crossings, and were 
to push reconnaissances towards the enemy. 

The 2nd Infantry Brigade, the leading troops of the 
1st Division, therefore, followed the Cavalry Division, 
after assisting its crossing at Bourg, and took up a covering 
position on the northern bank. The 1st Cavalry Brigade 
at once struck eastwards upon Pargnan to gain touch with 
the French, and General de Lisle took the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade northwards along the ridge immediately north of 
Bourg, from which a German column could be seen moving 
north from Vendresse. I Battery opened fire upon this 
with shrapnel, but was answered with such vigour that 
the 2nd Cavalry Brigade was obliged to fall back to the 
south side of the ridge. 

Further to the left, the divisional cavalry of the 2nd 
Division reported soon after dawn that the bridge at 
Chavonne had been destroyed and that the approaches 
to it were commanded by German snipers. At Pont Arcy 
itself, however, the demolition of the bridge was only 

1 It finally enters the river lower down, near Vailly. 

* Apparently the enemy in this area consisted of parts of the Guard 
Cavalry Division, VII. Corps and 25th Landtvehr Brigade, all of the Second 

3 Temporarily attached to the Cavalry Division. 


partial, men on foot could use it, and it was feebly defended ; 
the greater part of the 5th Infantry Brigade was able to 
cross, practically unopposed, and thus enabled the Engineers 
to begin the construction of a pontoon bridge further 
downstream. Meanwhile, at noon the 2/Coldstream were 
sent to Chavonne to secure, if they could, the passage 
at that point. 

Still further to the left, the II. Corps, in pursuance of 
G.H.Q. orders, pushed forward the 3rd Division against 
the bridges at Vailly (where the road passes over both 
canal and river), and the 5th Division against the bridge 
of Missy. These two passages are 4 miles apart. The 
bridge at Conde, midway between them, was intact ; it 
also was allotted to the 5th Division, but the approaches 
to it could be so easily commanded by machine guns that 
it had evidently been left open by the enemy as a trap. 

The 8th Infantry Brigade, which led the advance of 
the 3rd Division upon Vailly, was checked when it reached 
Chassemy, on the edge of the plateau, If miles from the 
river, by the fire of German howitzers on the promontory 
of Chivres, a large spur flanking the valley, and it could 
progress no further. The artillery of the division came into 
action above Brenelle, to the right rear of Chassemy ; but 
the 49th Battery, unlimbering in the open, was promptly 
silenced, the detachments being driven from their guns. 
At 10 A.M. the Royal Scots, working their way down 
through the woods on the slopes of the valley north of 
Chassemy, were able to reach the canal not far short of 
the two bridges ; but the outlook was not promising. 
The light railway bridge a mile above Vailly had been 
entirely destroyed, and the road bridge over the river 
was also broken, though the gap was spanned by a single- 

Elank footway which the Germans, in their haste, had 
ift behind them. 

Missy bridge, on the other hand, had been seized at 
1 A.M. by the 4th Divisional Cyclists, who detached a party 
to hold it for the II. Corps. But this party had been 
driven off by superior numbers of Germans at 4 A;M. and 
the condition of the bridge was now uncertain. An hour 
or two later two companies of the Royal West Kent, 
which was the leading battalion of the 13th Infantry 
Brigade, came down towards this bridge and engaged the 
hidden machine guns and riflemen on the northern bank 
and compelled them to retire, though themselves suffering 
several casualties. It was then possible for a party to 


advance and examine the bridge more closely, when it was is Sept. 
ascertained that the girders of the most northern of the 1914 - 
three spans had been destroyed, leaving a gap of some 
twenty feet. Heavy fire then compelled the party to 
withdraw, but the companies entrenched to the east of the 

Simultaneously with the movement of the 13th Infantry 
Brigade upon Missy, the 14th Infantry Brigade, with the 
121st Battery, was sent down a side valley to Moulin des 
Roches, just upstream from Venizel, which had been 
selected by the engineers as the most suitable place for 
bridging, and there the brigade remained until past noon 
whilst the 17th Field Company was constructing a raft. 

Still further to the west, in the III. Corps area, the 
12th Infantry Brigade, soon after 6 A.M., had begun to 
defile across the damaged bridge at Venizel, which had 
by that time been made somewhat safer ; and, west of it 
again, the French Sixth Army was steadily passing the 
river at Soissons. Both French and British were greeted 
by fire from German artillery, chiefly 8-inch and 5-9-inch 
howitzers, in action on the heights to the north. The most 
troublesome of these, so far as the British were concerned, 
were three batteries, already mentioned, on the spur of 
Chivres (just north of Missy), the commanding position in 
that section of the valley. One of these batteries seemed to 
be on the eastern branch of the spur, overlooking Conde, and 
the two others a mile or more further to the north about 
Les Carrier es. The artillery of the 4th and 5th Divisions 
had by this time taken up position on the plateau, from 
Le Carrier (1 J miles east of Billy) to Mont de Belleu Farm, 
on both sides of the valley which cuts into it from Venizel. 
The 31st and 108th Heavy Batteries succeeded in silencing 
for a time the German guns which were impeding the 
advance of the Allies ; but they were soon forced by the 
fire of the German heavy howitzers either to shift position 
or to withdraw their detachments. These howitzers, in 
fact, outranged all the British artillery, except the 60-pdr. 
batteries, and for the time being had complete mastery 
of the situation. 

However, by 11 A.M. all the 12th Infantry Brigade 
(except the 2/Inniskillings, who had been left behind to 
bring the guns over the bridge) was across the Aisne at 
Venizel. In widely extended order, the three battalions 
made their way across the two miles of water-meadows 
to Bucy le Long at the foot of the further heights, under 


a hail of shrapnel bullets, which did little damage. 1 The 
68th Battery followed them, moving by sections, and 
escaped without casualties. The 10th Infantry Brigade 
meanwhile took up a position behind the railway embank- 
ment westwards from Venizel for 2 miles to Villeneuve 
St. Germain, to cover a retirement if it should be necessary. 
The llth Infantry Brigade, holding the southern edge of 
the heights above Bucy le Long since early morning, was 
absolutely unmolested, though German troops were en- 
trenched within eight hundred to fifteen hundred yards 
north of it, and in the valleys of Chivres and Vregny to 
its right and front. On the right of this brigade, indeed, 
the 1 /Rifle Brigade had stolen through the woods on the 
western side of the Chivres valley and was effectively 
enfilading the German trenches on the eastern side. 

Such, then, was the situation about noon. The passage 
of the Aisne had been forced at both extremities of the 
British line ; and it remained to be seen how far this 
success would assist the passage of the centre. From all 
the information furnished to General Haig the gap had 
not been closed that had existed between the German First 
and Second Armies ever since the battle of the Marne, 
and there was nothing in front of him but a strong force 
of cavalry either a weak corps or a division at full strength 
and five batteries entrenched on the Chemin des Dames. 
Against such a force, he naturally hoped to gain ground 
without making a formal attack. 2 There was news, too, 

1 A translation of what Hauptmann Bloem saw of this attack from 
Chivres ridge is, apart from its vividness, of interest as showing the superior 
observation enjoyed by the Germans : 

" Across the wide belt of meadow extending between our chain of 
heights and the course of the river, stretched what seemed to be a dotted 
line formed of longish and widely separated strokes. With field-glasses, 
we could see that these strokes were advancing infantry, and unmistakably 
English. . . . 

" From the bushes bordering the river sprang up and advanced a second 
line of skirmishers, with at least ten paces interval from man to man. 
Our artillery flashed and hit naturally, at most, a single man. And 
the second line held on and pushed always nearer and nearer. Two 
hundred yards behind it came a third wave, a fourth wave. Our artillery 
fired like mad : all in vain, a fifth, a sixth line came on, all with good 
distance, and with clear intervals between the men. Splendid, we are 
all filled with admiration. 

" The whole wide plain was now dotted with these funny khaki figures, 
always coming nearer. The attack was directed on our neighbour corps 
on the right [the //.]. And now infantry fire met the attackers, but 
wave after wave flooded forward, and disappeared from our view behind 
the hanging woods that framed the entrance to the Chivres valley." 

2 This estimate of the German force was correct at the time : the 
2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions had opposed the I. Corps, but reinforcements 
were approaching them, as will be narrated later in this chapter. See p. 338. 


that the 35th Division of the French XVIII. Corps had at 13 Sept. 
10.30 A.M. crossed the Aisne at Pontavert, 7 miles to 1914 - 
his right, with the Germans only one hour ahead of it, 
and that this division and Conneau's Cavalry Corps were 
pressing on to the eastern end of the Chemin des Dames 
ridge and beyond. It may be added here that French 
infantry of the XVIII. Corps during the day reached 
Amifontaine, 6 miles north of the Aisne at Berry au Bac, Map 3. 
and that some of Conneau's cavalry got as far as Malmaison 
and Sissonne, 3 and 6 miles further north, respectively, 
and well behind the German line. 1 The prospects of a 
break-through were never brighter. 

The ground facing the British I. Corps presented a series Sketch 7. 
of high spurs projecting generally southwards from the M*P S 30 
Chemin des Dames ridge towards the Aisne. First, com- 
mencing from the east, are the Paissy Pargnan and Bourg 
spurs, both extending nearly to the river, with the village 
of Moulins at the top of the valley between them. Next is 
the short Troyon spur, with Vendresse in the valley east of 
it, and Beaulne and Chivy west of it. Westwards of these 
again are the three spurs at the foot of which lie Moussy 
and Soupir and Chavonne, respectively ; only the last of 
these comes close down to the river. 

By 1 P.M. the 2nd Infantry Brigade, which, as we saw, 
was the advanced guard of the 1st Division, had reached the 
top of the spur north of Bourg, enabling the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade to advance again some two miles as far as Moulins, 
where it was checked by German forces on the ridge north 
of Troyon. Other German troops were seen moving 
towards Bourg from Chivy, about a mile west of Troyon, and 
the Flying Corps reported the concentration of yet more, a 
mile or two further to the north of Courtecon. 2 The 1st 
(Guards) and 3rd Infantry Brigades were therefore sent 
across the river in all haste and by divisional orders were 
directed north-eastwards towards Paissy to the right of 
the 2nd Cavalry Brigade. About 4 P.M. the 2nd Infantry 
Brigade took up a position from Moulins south-west towards 
Bourg, and released the 2nd Cavalry Brigade to withdraw 
to its billets east of Bourg. By 6 P.M. the last man of the 
1st Infantry Division was on the north bank of the Aisne. 
The artillery, as it came up to Bourg, was pushed on to 
the next spur to the east, north of Pargnan, whence, 
towards evening, the XXV. Brigade R.F.A. and 30th 
Battery engaged the Germans about Troyon at long range. 

1 See p. 335. 2 Evidently part of the VII. Reserve Corps. 


At dusk, the action, in which the artillery of the French 
Fifth Army had shared, died down ; and the 1st Division 
and 2nd Cavalry Brigade settled down for the night at 
Paissy, Moulins, Oeuilly and Bourg, the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
re-crossing to the southern bank of the river at Pont Arcy. 
The casualties of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade had been slight ; 
fifty German prisoners had been taken and all seemed 
to be going well. Had the enemy intended to drive the 
I. Corps back across the Aisne, his chance was gone. 

On the left of the 1st Division, the pontoon bridge at 
Pont Arcy was not completed until 4.30 P.M. ; and mean- 
while the 2/Coldstream (4th (Guards) Brigade), with the 
help of artillery, had driven the German sharpshooters from 
Chavonne, crossed the river there by a temporary trestle 
bridge and advanced to the top of the ridge beyond it. 
Here, however, they came under heavy artillery fire, 
against which their own guns were powerless to help them, 
for they were out-ranged, and after losing twenty men the 
Coldstream were withdrawn to the south bank, leaving a 
company to guard the temporary bridge. It was then so 
late that the remainder of the 4th (Guards) Brigade and the 
6th Infantry Brigade did not attempt to cross the Aisne ; 
and the 5th Infantry Brigade, the only infantry of the 2nd 
Division on the northern bank, 1 after enduring some hours' 
bombardment, moved under cover of darkness towards the 
left of the 1st Division, between Moussy and Verneuil, and 
took up a line of outposts half a mile further north, astride 
the Beaulne spur and the two valleys which flank it to the 
east and west. 

Further to the left, in the II. Corps, General Hubert 
Hamilton, commanding the 3rd Division, after personal in- 
spection of the bridges at Vailly, at 1 P.M. ordered the 8th 
Infantry Brigade to advance upon them. As already 
stated, the railway bridge had been completely destroyed, 
and the road bridge had been broken ; but by the single 
plank spanning the breach in the latter, the Royal Scots 
and the Royal Irish began at 3 P.M. to cross the Aisne. 
They were steadily shelled as they did so, and a few men 
were wounded ; but by 4 P.M. the Royal Scots were 
established in Vauxelles Chateau (1 mile north-west of 
Vailly) and on the high ground north-west of it ; and before 
nightfall the rest of the 8th Infantry Brigade was in sup- 
port at St. Pierre (just west of Vailly). -The 9th Infantry 
Brigade followed by the same tedious way during the night ; 

1 See p. 328. 


while the Engineers, under continued shell fire, began the 13 Sept. 
construction of a pontoon bridge. For the best part of 1914 - 
the night, however, the only communication in the 3rd 
Division between the 8th and 9th Infantry Brigades on the 
north bank of the river and the 7th Infantry Brigade at 
Braisne, was a single-plank footway. 

Owing to a misunderstanding a demonstration which 
was to have been made at Conde bridge by General Cough's 
cavalry did not take place. 

At Missy bridge the West Kents (13th Infantry Brigade) 
were unable to move from their trenches * until nightfall, 
when under cover of darkness they began to dribble men 
across the Aisne : first in a boat which had been found 
under the south bank, then on a small raft of railway 
sleepers improvised by themselves, and finally on five small 
rafts constructed by the 59th Field Company R.E. The 
annihilation of a German patrol, which came down to the 
bank after about forty men had crossed the river, saved 
them from interruption by the enemy ; and though it was 

East midnight before the whole battalion had been trans- 
irred to the north bank the process was practically un- 
hindered by the Germans. The 2/Scottish Borderers 
followed and were all across shortly after daylight. The 
two remaining battalions of the 13th Infantry Brigade 
were left for the moment at Ciry and Sermoise, a mile or 
more south of Missy bridge. 

Further to the left, at Moulin des Roches, above 
Venizel, a raft to carry 60 men had been completed by noon 
on the 13th, and the leading battalion of the 14th Infantry 
Brigade (the 2 /Manchester) began to cross the river, the men 
concealing themselves as they landed behind a convenient 
wood on the northern bank. The East Surreys followed 
them, and by 3 P.M. both battalions, together with their 
pack animals, were on the German side of the Aisne, and 
beginning their advance without waiting for the rest of the 
brigade. As they left the cover of the trees, they came 
under heavy shrapnel fire from the promontory of Chivres, 
but pursued their way in extended order towards the 
eastern end of Ste. Marguerite (half a mile west of Missy) to 
support the 12th Infantry Brigade, which held the village. 
As they were approaching, they received a message from 
Brigadier-General H. F. M. Wilson that his brigade (the 12th) 
was attacking the Chivres spur from Ste. Marguerite, and 
begged the 14th Infantry Brigade to help him by striking 

1 See p. 328. 


in from the south. It was too late, however, to fall in with 
this suggestion, but the direction was changed so that the 
East Surreys should come in on the right of the 12th In- 
fantry Brigade with the Manchesters in echelon to its right 
rear. The Lancashire Fusiliers and the Essex of the 12th 
Infantry Brigade were in fact advancing, the former on the 
right, the latter on the left of the road which leads from 
Ste. Marguerite to Chivres, against a position of which 
they knew remarkably little. The ground was swampy 
and the undergrowth of the woods on the way was very 
thick, so that progress was slow ; but about 5 P.M. the 
Lancashire Fusiliers came und^r heavy fire on their front 
from trenches south of Chivres village, and on their right 
flank from the western slopes of the Chivres spur. Two 
companies engaged the enemy in front while a third drove 
back or silenced the enemy on the flank, the Essex giving 
such support as they could from the hill above Ste. Mar- 
guerite. But the Lancashire Fusiliers could advance no 
further ; and it so happened that just at this moment two 
guns of the 68th Battery opened fire from an exposed 
position near the head of the ravine of Le Moncel (half a 
mile north-west of Ste. Marguerite), drawing heavy retalia- 
tion on that area. The guns were compelled to retire, and 
some advancing parties of the 1 /Rifle Brigade (llth Infantry 
Brigade) were also driven back with considerable loss. 

These incidents put a stop to the advance on Chivres. 
The 14th Infantry Brigade had not been able to assist 
much, as having to change direction under shrapnel fire it 
did not come up until the moment for its co-operation had 
passed. The Lancashire Fusiliers clung to their ground 
until nightfall, when the Manchesters came forward to 
relieve them. They had lost 6 officers and over 170 men, 
and were obliged to leave many of their wounded on the 
ground, as they were too near the German trenches to per- 
mit of their removal. It was long before any troops of the 
Allies approached nearer than they had to the command- 
ing promontory of Chivres. However, a passage at Moulin 
des Roches had been effected ; and at 9 P.M. the 15th In- 
fantry Brigade marched down to the raft that the 14th had 
used and began crossing the river, leaving behind their 
horses and vehicles to follow them at daybreak. Thus 
before dawn of the 14th September a footing, albeit pre- 
carious, had been gained on the north bank of the Aisne at 
several points ; and the situation of the British Army was 
as follows : 


North Bank of Aisne. 

Cavalry Division . . . . 1 T, , T- . , , T 

1st Division . . pawefi Palss y and Ver - 

5th Infantry Brigade . . J 

Gap of 5 miles. 
8th and 9th Infantry Brigades Vauxelles. 

Gap of 3 miles. 

I/West Kent and 2/K.O.S.B. 
of the 13th Infantry Brigade . Missy. 

"h^lion 11 . Infe " try Brigade ! } Ste ' Marguerite to Crouy. 
South Bank of Aisne. 

4th (Guards) and 6th Infantry Vieil Arcy, Dhuizel, St. 
Brigades Mard. 

?thLlnt y C B a rii r d y e Br . igadeS I }Braisne and vicinity. 
13th Infantry Brigade (less two 

battalions) South of Missy. 

Both flanks of the British Army were in close touch 
with the French. On the right the French Fifth Army had 
met with varying fortune. On its left centre General 
Conneau's Cavalry Corps had met with unexpected re- 
sistance after its first advance, and had fallen back upon 
Juvincourt (4 miles north of Berry au Bac) to save itself 
from being cut off. The XVIII. Corps, however, on General 
Conneau's left and in touch with the British I. Corps was 
attacking towards Corbeny, Craonne and Craonnelle, so far 
with encouraging success. Further to the east the French 
Ninth and Fourth Armies had both made considerable 
progress and had driven back the enemy. On the left of 
the British the French Sixth Army had experienced the 
same difficulties as they had met with. On the extreme 
right of this Army, that is to say about the point of junction 
with the British, progress had not been rapid, the troops 
being delayed at Soissons by want of bridges, and much 
harassed by the German heavy guns on the heights between 
Crouy and Vaurezis (3 miles north-west of Soissons). 
General Maunoury's difficulties in this section of the line 
were exactly the same as our own. The German guns 
could shell his troops in the valley at comparatively 
short range, but could not be reached by the French guns 
except at long range. On his right, the 45th Division, next 
to the British, crossed at Soissons, but, though supported 

336 THE A1SNE 

by the 55th Division of Lamaze's Group, had been unable 
to get beyond Cuffies. The 56th Division failed to secure 
the passage of the Aisne at Pommiers (2 miles below 
Soissons). In the centre of the Sixth Army, however, the 
14th Division of the VII. Corps got across at Vic ; and 
on the left, part of the IV. French Corps had crossed 
the Aisne at Berneuil (8J miles east of Compiegne) 
and the remainder was clearing the Forest of Compiegne. 
Maunoury's cavalry was moving north-east, to threaten 
the German communications. 

Map 31. For the better understanding of the situation, it may 
be recalled here that the Chemin des Dames ridge rises out 
of the plain of Champagne near Craonne and extends thence, 
between the valleys of the Aisne and the Ailette, in a con- 
tinuous unbroken line westward for some five and twenty 
miles until abreast of Soissons, where it bifurcates near the 
village of Juvigny, its south-western fork ending a mile or 
two beyond Nouvron. From the Chemin des Dames 
countless spurs run down to the valley of the Aisne ; and 
upon some of these spurs, as we have seen, the British had 
obtained a footing. The XVIII. French Corps seemed to 
have good prospect of getting on to the eastern edge of the 
ridge at Craonne ; if, in conjunction with the British I. 
Corps, it could secure the eastern section of the Chemin des 
Dames from Craonne to Courtecon and then strike west- 
ward, it would ease the task of the II. and III. Corps 
and of General Maunoury's right. If the latter's VII. 
Corps could simultaneously gain Nouvron and strike 
thence eastward, it is obvious that there was very good 
prospect of sweeping the Germans completely from the 

Reviewing the general position, Sir John French decided 
that he was justified in making a great effort to carry out 
General Joffre's instructions for an energetic pursuit by 
attacking along the whole front on the 14th. For all 
he knew, the Germans might still be in retreat, and there 
might be nothing before him except obstinate and skilfully 
posted rear guards. Captured documents proved that the 
retreat of the enemy was not a mere strategic movement, 
but had been forced on him as the result of an unsuccessful 
battle. The weather had been very unsettled on the 13th, 
though it improved in the afternoon, but aerial recon- 
naissance had revealed only one German cavalry division 
and about two infantry divisions between Cerny (8 miles 
S.S.W. of Laon) and Aizy (2 miles north of Vailly), 


and another division near Laon. 1 Appearances seemed to 13 Sept. 
indicate that, except for local counter-attacks, the whole 1914 - 
German line was retiring in a north-easterly direction. By 
dawn on the 14th, the Engineers would have laid a pontoon 
bridge and a trestle bridge near Vailly. At Missy the bridge 
had been so much damaged that it could not be repaired in 
a single night. But even without additional bridges much 
might be done. 

General Joffre in his Special Instruction No. 4 of the Map 3. 
13th, also was of opinion that " the enemy was retreating 
" on the whole front without serious resistance on the Aisne 
" and the Marne." He ordered that the pursuit should be 
continued energetically in a general northerly direction, 
by the British between Athies (just east of Laon) and the 
Oise, and by the Sixth Army west of the Oise. 

G.H.Q. operation orders for the 14th, 2 therefore, directed 
the Army to advance northward to the line Laon 
Fresnes (12 miles west of Laon), the Cavalry Division 
covering the right and the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades 
the left of the force. 

Sir Douglas Haig decided to make the Chemin des Dames Map si. 
ridge the first objective of the I. Corps and ordered the 1st 
Division to advance to the section from Cerny westward to 
Courtecon, and the 2nd Division from Courtecon, exclusive, 
westward to the tunnel through which the Oise canal 
pierces the hill from Pargny to Braye. Whether further 
progress could be made would depend on the movements 
of the II. Corps. The Cavalry Division was directed to 
be prepared to push on to Laon. The orders entailed 
the 4th and 6th Infantry Brigades of the 2nd Division 
crossing the Aisne at daybreak. 

In the II. Corps, both divisions were ordered to continue 
the pursuit northwards, Gough's cavalry following as soon 
as the bridges were clear. 

In the III. Corps, similarly, the 4th Division was 
ordered to resume the offensive and gain first the northern 

1 This report, as is now known, was correct. The two infantry divisions 
in the line were the 13th Reserve Division (just arrived) and one of the 
///. Corps. But on the east of the space reported on, Cerny Aizy, the 
14th Reserve Division was coming up, and on the west, opposite the British, 
were the other division of the ///. Corps and the whole of the //. Corps. 
The Guard Cavalry Division was still in line, but the 2nd and 9th were 
pulled out as the infantry came up. 

Thus, there were six infantry divisions and a cavalry division in front 
of the British, with a corps, the XV., behind. This corps went in next 
day against the French on the east of the VII. Reserve Corps. 

2 Appendix 47. 



edge of the high ground between Vregny Braye, some 
two and a half miles from the southern edge of the plateau 
where the division was established. The divisional artillery 
and the 19th Infantry Brigade were still to remain on the 
south bank of the Aisne. 


Map 2. With better management than at the Marne, the German 
Supreme Command at the Aisne had divisions available to 
fill the gap between the First and Second Armies. Qn the 
7th September, the XV. Corps (Seventh Army) and the 
7th Cavalry Division (Sixth Army) had been ordered west- 
ward l from the left in Alsace, with the intention of placing 
them, with the IX. Reserve Corps from Antwerp, as a new 
Seventh Army, on the extreme right of the German Force, 
so as to outflank Maunoury's Army, just as that Army had 
outflanked von Kluck. 

These troops became available too late to fulfil that 
purpose during the battle of the Marne, but, diverted from 
its original destination, the VII. Reserve Corps, released by 
the fall of Maubeuge, arrived in the nick of time on the 
13th to stop the gap north of the Aisne. It anticipated 
the British I. Corps by a couple of hours only ; on this small 
margin of time did the stand of the Germans on the Aisne 
depend. Next day the XV. Corps in a similar way stopped 
the French advance on the British right. 

It is therefore of some interest to examine the move- 
ments of the German troops concerned. Maubeuge had 
surrendered on the evening of the 7th September, with 
effect from noon on the 8th, 2 and the VII. Reserve Corps, 
leaving two battalions as garrison and three as escort to 
prisoners, was at first under orders to proceed northwards 
against the British who had landed on the Flanders coast. 3 
The orders were subsequently cancelled and the corps left 
Maubeuge on the 10th September to march to La Fere, 
where it was to form the nucleus of the Seventh Army, 
whose commander, Generaloberst von Heeringen, had 
arrived in Brussels. The necessity of filling the gap 
between von Biilow and von Kluck and preventing a 

1 Stegemann, ii. p. 26. 

2 A full account of the siege of Maubeuge will be found in Zwehl and in 
Commandant P. Cassou's " La verite sur le siege de Maubeuge." (Paris, 
Berger-Levrault, 3 francs.) 

8 Zwehl, p. 54. Three battalions of Royal Marines had landed, see 
p. 219. 


break-through was deemed to be so urgent that for the 13 Sept. 
moment all thought of outflanking movements was aban- 1914< 
doned, and at 9.40 A.M. on the 12th the orders of the 
VII. Reserve Corps were again changed, and General von 
Zwehl, its commander, was directed to march it with all 
speed to Laon, where he was to receive further instructions. 
After a two-hours' halt in the evening, it pressed on all 
through the night in two columns. About 6 A.M. on the 
13th the corps bivouacked in two groups 5 miles south 
and south-east of Laon, after a march of 40 miles in 
twenty-four hours : from a fifth to a fourth of its infantry 
had fallen out. 1 

At 8 A.M. the VII. Reserve Corps was instructed by von Maps 30 
Biilow under whose orders the Seventh Army and also & 31 * 
the First Army had been placed to move up on the left 
(east) of the First Army, which " was awaiting battle on the 
" general line Vailly Soissons Attichy." General von 
Zwehl ordered the march to be resumed at 9.30 A.M. in a 
south-west direction towards Chavonne, so as to reach the 
Chemin des Dames as soon as possible. He directed his 
13th Reserve Division on Braye en Laonnais and the 14th 
Reserve Division on Cerny. He hoped thus, by being in a 
position to move either south-east or south-west, to be able 
to hold the gap. Shortly before 11 A.M. a further order was 
received from von Biilow, ordering the VII. Reserve Corps 
to Berry au Bac, 15 miles east of Chavonne, where his right 
was threatened. Unfortunately for the British Expedi- 
tionary Force, von Zwehl considered his troops too far 
committed to the direction that he had given them, and 
ignored von Billow's cry for help. Had he moved his corps 
to the south-east, he would have left the way clear for the 
British I. Corps to establish itself on the Chemin des Dames 
ridge, and the flank of all the German forces west of it might 
have been turned. As it was, by 2 P.M. on the 13th September 
the entire 13th Reserve Division was in position along the 
Chemin des Dames, north of Braye, its foremost troops 
having reached it and relieved the cavalry considerably 
earlier. It was thus ready when the leading troops of the 
I. Corps approached. The 14th Reserve Division, the other 
division of the corps, was divided into two portions : one 
brigade, the 27th Reserve, with three batteries, came up 
on the east of the 13th Reserve Division at Cerny (north of 
Troy on) about 2 P.M. ; the 28th Brigade marched further 

1 Zwehl, p. 59 et seq., from which the details of the operations of the 
VII. Reserve Corps are taken. 


eastward against the French. Between these two brigades 
von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps assembled. 1 

Thus, even by the afternoon of the 13th, the crisis 
of the battle of the Aisne was, for the Germans, practically 
over ; the screen in the gap had been sufficiently strength- 
ened to stop the British advanced guards, and by troops 
who had not borne the burden of the rapid advance to the 
Marne and the disheartening retreat to the Aisne. In 
front of the British there was a continuous line from east 
to west : part of the //. Cavalry Corps, VII. Reserve Corps, 
the ///. Corps with the 34th Infantry Brigade of the IX. 
Corps interpolated in its centre opposite Vailly, the //. 
Corps, and part of the IV. Corps? Moreover, the German 
First and Second Armies had held their ground and time 
had been gained to improve their defences. Von Billow 
hoped "by an offensive advance on the 14th September 
" completely to consolidate " the line of his three Armies. 
In the Seventh Army, the XV. Corps, then on the point of 
arriving, was to attack south-eastwards with the object of 
cutting off the French who had penetrated into the re- 
entrant between the German Armies, drive them back over 
the Aisne and occupy the high ground on the southern 
bank. The VII. Reserve Corps was to co-operate in this 
movement : and von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps was first 
to cover the arrival of the XV. Corps and then secure its 
eastern flank. The 6th Division of the First Army was also 
to participate in the attack. 3 


Sketch 7. In the description of the actions of the 14th September, 
&*32 31 a l tnou gh some sort of order may appear in the narrative, 
it must be borne in mind that in consequence of thick 
weather, of the fighting being at close quarters, sometimes 
even hand-to-hand, and of the heavy casualties, there 
actually was very great confusion. It was most difficult 
for divisional and brigade staffs, even for battalion com- 
manders, to follow all the vicissitudes of the combat, and 

1 It may be added that on the afternoon of the 13th, the 25th Landwehr 
Brigade joined the VII. Reserve Corps ; on the 13th also, 1,200 reinforce- 
ments, intended for the X. Corps, were assigned to the 27th Reserve 
Brigade, as also a Horse Artillery Abteilung of the 9th Cavalry Division ; 
and two 8-inch howitzer batteries were allotted to the corps ; on the 14th 
two battalions arrived from Maubeuge ; and on the 17th a complete brigade 
of the XII. Corps reinforced it. 

2 See Zwehl, Maps 3 and 4. 

8 The operation order is in Zwehl, p. 68. 


almost impossible to record them in detail. Even could 14 Sept. 
they have done so, their accounts could scarcely have 1914 - 
done justice to the desperate character of the encounter 
on the Chemin des Dames ridge and near the Chivres spur. 
The fighting resembled that of Waterloo or Inkerman, 
except that the combatants, instead of being shoulder to 
shoulder, controlled by their officers, advanced in open 
order and in small parties, and fought usually behind cover 
or lying down ; there was little of a spectacular nature, 
except when the enemy tried to bear down all opposition 
by weight of numbers. 

To epitomize the day's work the British divisions 
came piecemeal on to the battlefield to the support of the 
advanced guards already across the Aisne. They found 
the enemy not only in position, entrenched and supported 
by 8-inch howitzers, but in such force that so far from 
manifesting any intention of continuing his retreat, he made 
every effort to drive the British back over the river. Thus 
the 14th September passed in alternate attack and counter- 
attack, and ended in no decisive result. It was the first day 
of that " stabilization " of the battle line that was to last 
so many weary months the beginning, as it turned out, 
of trench warfare. 

Advance of the 1st Division. 

Reconnaissances during the night had established the Maps 31 
fact that parties of the enemy were established in a sugar & 32 - 
factory a little north-west of Troyon and at some cross- 
roads just beyond. To protect the march of the 1st 
Division, therefore, the 2nd Infantry Brigade, with two 
batteries of the XXV. Brigade R.F.A., all under Brigadier- 
General Bulfin, was ordered to seize before daybreak the 
top of the Chemin des Dames ridge from Cerny to a road 
junction a mile westward. Under cover of this force, the 
advanced guard of the division the 1st (Guards) Brigade, a 
battery, and a field company, under Brigadier-General Maxse 
clearing Moulin by 7.30 A.M. was to march northward 
on Chamouille via Cerny. The main body of the division 
was then to follow, except two brigades of artillery and 
the heavy battery, which were to cover the advance from 
Paissy spur. 

At 3 A.M., amid heavy rain and dense mist, General 
Bulfin's force moved by Vendresse upon Troyon, the 


2/King's Royal Rifle Corps and 2/Sussex leading. The 
village which lies close below the crest of the ridge was 
occupied by 4 A.M. Before advancing further, General 
Bulfin threw out the Northamptons to the spur next to the 
eastward, in order to protect his right flank, and then sent 
the K.R.R.C. on the right and the Sussex on the left 
forward to the crest of the ridge where they immediately 
came under fire. The two leading companies of the Sussex, 
finding that the fire came from trenches some three hundred 
yards to the north of them, moved westward so as to take 
the defenders in flank. For a brief space there was a sharp 
interchange of rifle fire ; and then large numbers of Germans 
threw up their hands in token of surrender. Some of the 
Sussex rose to their feet to bring their prisoners in, upon 
which other Germans in rear opened fire indiscriminately 
upon friend and foe ; but, none the less, some three 
hundred of the enemy were captured and sent to the rear. 1 
Continuing the fight, the left half-company of the Sussex 
succeeded in overlapping the western flank of the Germans, 
who, astride the road from Troyon north-west to the sugar 
factory, were opposing the progress of the K.R.R.C. ; and 
the British marksmanship was so accurate that here also 
numbers of Germans threw up their hands. Thereupon, 
two German batteries, entrenched east of the factory, 
opened fire upon their unhappy comrades, who, between 
German shells from the east and British bullets from the 
south and west, were quickly exterminated. Teams then 
appeared near the two batteries, but in a very short time 
every driver, horse and gunner was shot down by the 
British rifles ; and twelve guns remained silent and derelict 
upon the plateau. 2 

It was now nearly 7 A.M. The head of the 1st (Guards) 
Brigade had reached Vendresse, where General Maxse de- 
cided to advance and prolong the line of the 2nd to the left. 
The 3rd Infantry Brigade was in reserve on the right rear of 
the 2nd at Moulins, less the Queen's, which was on its way 
further east to the plateau of Paissy (2 miles east of Ven- 
dresse) to act as right flank guard and escort to the portion 
of the divisional artillery in readiness there. The 1st and 4th 
Cavalry Brigades were in observation near Paissy itself, and 
the 2nd Cavalry Brigade in the neighbourhood of Vendresse, 

1 Principally men of the 16th Reserve Infantry Regiment ( VII. Reserve 
Corps) and 78th Infantry Regiment (X. Corps). 

2 Zwehl, p. 73, says only one battery ( 1st of the Reserve F.A. Regiment 
No. 14 on the left of the Abteilung). 


to which position it had fallen back after General Bulfin's 14 Sept. 
force had passed through it. The 2nd Division was not 1914 - 
ready to move, the 6th Infantry Brigade having not yet 
finished the passage of the Aisne. The two batteries also 
assigned to General Bulfin's force had not yet joined him, 
nor was there the slightest prospect in the fog that prevailed 
that they could find a target when they did arrive. 

After 7 A.M. the fusilade upon the ridge of the Chemm 
des Dames increased, and by 8 A.M. Major-General Lomax 
(1st Division) was satisfied that a strong German attack was 
developing upon the front of his 2nd Brigade, and de- 
spatched a message to the Cavalry Division at Paissy asking 
that his right flank should be protected. Between 8 and 
9 A.M. the combat rapidly became more intense. The 1st 
(Guards) Brigade, led by the 1/Coldstream, was approaching 
the left of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, but General Lomax sent 
orders to Brigadier-General Bulfin not to push on after he 
had secured the high ground. Meanwhile the Loyal North 
Lancashire were sent up by General Bulfin from brigade 
reserve to support the K.R.R.C. and the Sussex in the attack 
upon the factory ; and all three battalions advanced, and 
succeeded in occupying the buildings and entrenching on the 
flat top of the ridge beyond. They actually passed through 
the two abandoned German batteries ; but, though they clung 
to the position which they had taken up, they were unable 
to make further headway against the enemy, entrenched 
with field guns and machine guns to the north and east 
of the factory. He, on his side, made repeated counter- 
attacks, which were steadily repulsed. 

Meanwhile the 1/Coldstream were struggling through a 
large and thick patch of wood in the Vendresse valley and 
up the very steep hillside which led to the top of the ridge. 
On reaching it, their commanding officer, Colonel Ponsonby, 
learnt that the Cameron Highlanders l and the Black Watch 
had discovered an easier road and were already in position. 
There was, however, still a space left for his battalion 
between them and the left of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. 
He accordingly deployed it and led it forward as far as the 
actual roadway of the Chemin des Dames, along which he 
aligned his men. The road has steep banks ; but the 
German artillery fire was very heavy and the Coldstream 
suffered severely. Finally, Colonel Ponsonby collected the 
equivalent of about a company and led them forward to 

1 The 1 /Cameron Highlanders had taken the place of the 2/Royal 
Munster Fusiliers in the 1st (Guards) Brigade. 


the village of Cerny (f mile north of Troyon) and on the far 
side of the ridge and beyond it, penetrating far into the 
German position. So obscure was the whole situation, 
owing to the fog, that he at first mistook the Germans all 
round him for British, while they on their part mistook the 
Coldstream for their own men. The Coldstream, however, 
were the first to realize the truth, and under their fire the 
enemy near them speedily disappeared. The rest of the 
battalion worked its way further to the east and formed on 
the right of the K.R.R.C., prolonging its line to the east. 
Still further to the east, the Queen's, nominally a right 
flank guard, also crossed the Chemin des Dames, but met 
with no serious resistance till it reached the northern 
slope by La Bovelle Farm (J mile north-east of Cerny). 
Here the battalion took up a position and engaged the 
German reserves in the valley of the Ailette north of it, 
turning its machine gun upon the flank of any German 
troops that chanced to pass across its front, and inflicting 
considerable damage. Actually, therefore, there were two 
separate points, a mile apart, at which the German line had 
been pierced with no great trouble or loss ; and five com- 
panies in all of British infantry were looking down into the 
valley of the Ailette. 

The confusion on the ridge owing to the fog, however, 
was remarkable even for a modern battlefield. The 
Germans unfortunately enjoyed the advantage of having 
their guns in position and, indifferent whether they hit 
friend or foe, maintained a heavy fire, which caused the 
British considerable loss. The British batteries, on the 
other hand, took some time to reach their position on the 
plateau of Paissy, and when they arrived there did not 
immediately open fire, fearing to do more harm than 
good. Before 11 A.M., however, the 54th and 114th 
Batteries did signal service to the 2nd Infantry Brigade ; 
and the 116th, coming boldly into the firing line east of 
Troyon, fought alongside the infantry. Nevertheless, the 
general situation was unpleasant, and, for reasons that will 
be given later, there was no sign of the 2nd Division coming 
up on the left of the 1st. 

Meantime the 3rd Infantry Brigade, which had been 
despatched by the divisional commander to reinforce the 
left of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, found itself about 10.30 A.M. 
upon the eastern flank of the 25th Reserve Infantry Brigade 
which was pressing south-westward towards Vendresse, 
between Chivy and Troyon. Soon afterwards the fog 


lifted, and the 46th and 113th Batteries, unlimbering 14 Sept. 
near Moussy, south-west of Vendresse, opened fire on this 1914 - 
force with deadly effect. The advance of the Germans was 
checked, and the 2/Welch Regiment and 1 /South Wales 
Borderers delivered an attack upon them towards the north- 
west. The progress of the Borderers was much impeded 
by dense woods, but the Welch, having clear ground before 
them, pressed their assault with great determination and, 
carrying all before them, established themselves firmly 
on the south-eastern slopes of the Beaulne spur. 

It was now about 1 P.M. The Welch were in the posi- 
tion above described, and the South Wales Borderers in rear 
of them, between Chivy and Beaulne. They had done 
their work well ; but they had hardly completed it before 
the Germans launched a counter-attack 1 against the entire 
front of the 2nd Infantry and 1st (Guards) Brigades. The 
first onslaught fell on the British right, and it drove the 
2nd Infantry Brigade from the sugar factory and back 
through the two derelict German batteries to the position 
which it had held earlier in the day. The ground thus 
regained by the enemy was of no great depth, but it was 
sufficient to expose the right flank of the Cameron High- 
landers (1st Brigade), upon whom the Germans turned a 
devastating machine-gun fire. 

This battalion had in the morning formed for attack 
under cover of the wood by the head of the Chivy valley, 
which runs down from the Chemin des Dames to Chivy, a 
little to the west of Troyon. It came under rifle fire before 
it was clear of the trees, and on emerging into the open 
was immediately checked by a storm of shells from its 
front and left, and by enfilade fire of machine guns from 
the right. The right company, which came up first, was 
shattered almost immediately, but the remaining companies 
came on in succession and maintained the attack. A com- 
pany of the 1 /Black Watch was pushed up on the right 
of the Camerons and part of the 1 /Scots Guards 2 on their 
left ; and the whole, pressing steadily on, charged the 
German trenches on the plateau above them, and carried 
them with an irresistible rush. Then, attacked in flank 
and riddled through and through, with more than half of 
the men down and with ammunition failing, the High- 
landers gradually dribbled back into the Chivy valley, 

1 For the German forces engaged against the 1st Division see pp. 361 
and 409. In infantry they amounted to over eighteen battalions. 
a Two companies were absent as escort to artillery. 


whence they had started. A last party of fifty Camerons, 
under Major Hon. A. H. Maitland, clung to the ground 
that they had won, until their ammunition was almost 
exhausted ; then they fell back fifty yards behind the 
crest of the ridge. There they were attacked by masses 
of the enemy, five and six deep and, after beating back 
the first onset in which their commander was killed, were 
finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers. 

Two companies of the 1 /Gloucestershire, the reserve 
of the 3rd Infantry Brigade (the rest of the battalion being 
divisional reserve), were sent forward to cover the retire- 
ment of the Camerons, and of such of the Black Watch as 
were with them ; and the Highlanders were delivered from 
their pursuers. The troops between them and Troyon gradu- 
ally conformed to the new front, facing north-west. The 
Queen's were still at La Bovelle, and Colonel Ponsonby's 
party of the 1/Coldstream was still north of Cerny, these 
forming, as it were, advanced posts in front of the right 
and right centre of the British line. The whole of the 
infantry of the 1st Division except the two companies in 
divisional reserve had been put into the fight. The situation 
remained practically unchanged for the next two hours, 
during which the Germans continued to make counter- 
attacks at various points along the whole length of the line 
attacks which grew weaker and weaker after each repulse, 
until by 3 P.M. they had practically died away. 

The Advance of the 2nd Division. 

Maps 81 Leaving the 1st Division, we will now turn to the 

& 82 2nd Division on its immediate left. 

The orders issued by Major-General Monro to the 2nd 
Division were that the 6th Infantry Brigade with the 
XXXIV. Brigade R.F.A. should form the new advanced 
guard under Brigadier-General Davies, and begin the 
passage of the Aisne by the pontoon bridge at Pont Arcy 
at 5 A.M. Having crossed the river, under protection of 
the 5th Infantry Brigade in its position between Verneuil 
and Moussy, the 6th was to advance northwards through the 
5th, as soon as it was clear. The latter was then to follow. 
The 4th (Guards) Brigade with the XXXVI. Brigade 
R.F.A., crossing by the same bridge at 7 A.M. (actually, 
the bridge was not clear for them until 8.30 A.M.), was to 
turn north-westward, through Soupir (about two miles 
W.N.W. of Pont Arcy) and La Cour de Soupir (about one 


mile north-west of Soupir), to the summit of the Soupir 14 Sept. 
spur, which juts out to the Aisne between Soupir and 1914> 
Chavonne. The rest of the division, including two brigades 
of artillery, was to follow the Guards, except the heavy 
battery, which was to cross the river at Bourg and join 
the column north of the river ; actually one of these 
brigades, the XLIV. (Howitzer), also crossed at Bourg. 

The leading battalion of the 6th Infantry Brigade 
began its crossing punctually at the named hour ; but 
though not interfered with by the enemy, the march of the 
troops over the narrow floating bridge was slow ; and it was 
8 A.M. before the entire brigade, with its attached guns, 
was assembled on the north bank. The 1 /Royal Berkshire, 
preceded by two troops of the 15th Hussars, were then 
pushed north-north-west towards Braye, up the long valley 
in which lies the Oise and Aisne Canal, with two companies 
of the 1/K.R.R.C. thrown out upon the hills on either hand 
as flank guards. This canal valley breaks into the main 
ridge so deeply that Braye, which stands at the head of 
its western fork, is hardly half a mile from the Chemin 
des Dames. On the sides of spurs which jut out on the 
eastern side of this valley are the villages of Verneuil 
and Moussy. 

Shortly after 9 A.M., on reaching a line east and west 
of La Maison Brule*e (about half-way between Moussy and 
Braye), the Royal Berkshire were checked by heavy shell 
and rifle fire, from the high ground north of the latter 
village ; and there was some delay whilst the King's were 
brought forward and extended to the right of the Royal 
Berkshire, between them and their right flank guard. The 
batteries which had crossed the Aisne at Bourg were also 
retarded by a steady rain of German shells upon the road 
leading northward from Bourg to Courtonne. However, 
at 10 A.M. the 50th and 70th Batteries of the XXXIV. 
Brigade R.F.A. came into action on the southern slopes 
of the Moussy spur ; and at 10.30 A.M. the 6th Infantry 
Brigade opened its attack. Two companies- of the 
1/K.R.R.C., moving along the summit of this same spur 
(Point 158), formed the right. On their left, the King's 
entered the woods that clothe the western slope of the 
spur on the eastern side of the Oise Canal ; and the Royal 
Berkshire advanced on the lower ground west of the King's, 
their left flank being guarded by the two remaining com- 
panies of the K.R.R.C. on the subsidiary spur of La 
Bovette, immediately to the north of Soupir village. 


The attack appears to have been launched prematurely, 
before the troops on Moussy spur had had time to reach 
their places in the line. In any case, it is certain that, 
whether from accident or design, the Royal Berkshire out- 
stripped the King's, and that the King's outstripped the 
two companies of the K.R.R.C. on their right. The 
Berkshire made their way successfully to the foot of the 
spur which juts southward from the Chemin des Dames 
just to north-east of Braye village, and by noon had two 
companies in action on its lower slopes. But they could 
advance no further, finding their progress barred by fire 
from tiers of trenches in their front and from both flanks. 
The King's, though under heavy fire from howitzers, field 
guns and rifles, likewise advanced nearly to the foot of the 
main ridge of the Chemin des Dames, where they, too, 
were brought to a stand by fire from tiers of German 
trenches on the steep slope before them, from their right 
flank and from their rear. An effort was made, with 
the help of the 2 /Worcestershire (the head of the 
5th Infantry Brigade), to clear the trenches on the right 
from which the enfilade fire proceeded, but without 
success. Still further to the east, the two companies of 
the 1 /K.R.R.C. pushed on to a wood, where they were 
counter-attacked by infantry in front, and enfiladed by 
machine guns from a flank. They fought vigorously and 
inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, but were finally forced 
back to the top of the spur above Moussy ; and the German 
counter-attack spread further to the west. The Royal 
Berkshire and King's were pushed back abreast of Beaulne 
village only half a mile from Moussy ; but the K.R.R.C., 
having been reinforced by the 2 /Worcestershire and the 
Highland Light Infantry, were able to stem the German 
onslaught until, by the aid of the 46th and 113th Batteries 
and of the 3rd Infantry Brigade which had advanced 
on their right, as already described, they finally repulsed 
the enemy with very heavy loss. 

Although the 2/Grenadiers, the leading battalion of 
the 4th (Guards) Brigade, which was to prolong the left 
of the 6th Infantry Brigade, commenced to cross the 
pontoon bridge at 8.30 A.M., the Irish Guards, who were 
the last battalion, were not all across, according to their 
diary, until 10 A.M. The Connaught Rangers had been 
detached from the 5th Infantry Brigade, the covering 
force, to hold Soupir spur until the Guards should arrive ; 
and their commanding officer decided to move to La Cour 


de Soupir Farm, where there was a good defensive position. 14 Sept. 
Reaching this spot at 5.30 A.M., he pushed out patrols, 
and ascertained that the spur was clear of the enemy as 
far as its highest point, 197 La Croix sans Tete half a 
mile further north. At 9.30 A.M. the first parties of the 
Guards came up, having been heavily shelled on the way ; 
but no more arrived until two hours later ; and meanwhile, 
at 10.30 A.M., the outposts reported the advance of German 
infantry in force. The Connaught Rangers were at once 
deployed east and west of La Cour de Soupir. The 
detachment of the 1/K.R.R.C. was not yet in position on 
the crest of La Bovette, to their right ; and the enemy, 
covered by the fire of his artillery, attacked in large masses 
over the open, at the same time sending troops into the 
wood about La Bovette, to turn the flank of the Connaught 
Rangers. On the centre and left the British held their 
own, the 2/Grenadier Guards being now west and the 
Connaught Rangers east of La Cour de Soupir ; but in 
the woods on the right the enemy steadily gained ground, 
and after an hour's sharp fighting had advanced to within 
a hundred yards of the farm. Then, however, the 3 /Cold- 
stream came up and drove them back, recovering all the 
lost ground. The Germans, thereupon, attempted to 
outflank the left of the 4th (Guards) Brigade ; but the 
Coldstream sent a company to help the Grenadiers to foil 
the movement, and the position was successfully main- 
tained. The 1/K.R.R.C. were by this time making their 
presence felt about La Bovette, and the rest of the 4th 
(Guards) Brigade was rapidly coming up. Thus, by about 
2 P.M., the 2nd Division, though unable as yet to advance 
very far, was in firm possession of a line running, roughly 
speaking, from Beaulne westward to La Cour de Soupir, and 
thence south-west along the eastern edge of the top of the 
spur towards Chavonne. 1 

To sum up the situation on the I. Corps front between 
2 and 3 P.M. : 

The corps was successfully holding a line roughly facing Map 32. 
north-west from the plateau of the Chemin des Dames 
opposite La Bovelle, through Troyon, Chivy and Beaulne, 
to La Cour de Soupir, and thence south-westward to the 
river ; it had made appreciable headway and repulsed all 
counter-attacks with heavy loss to the enemy. The 1st 
Division batteries on the plateau of Paissy on the right 

1 The opponents of the 2nd Division were the right half of the Ufih 
Reserve Division and part of the 6th Division. 


had come into action when the fog lifted at noon, and 
divided their fire between the Germans who were retiring 
in disorder over the Chemin des Dames and those who were 
assembling for a fresh attack about Chermizy (about 
three miles N.N.W. of Paissy) in the valley of the Ailette. 


Maps 31 In the centre and left of the British front the situation 
& 32. was i ess satisfactory, and there was a gap of very nearly 
two miles between the left of the I. Corps and the right of 
the II. Of the 3rd Division, the 8th and 9th Infantry 
Brigades were, it will be remembered, already on the 
north bank of the Aisne, their line of outposts extending 
from a farm called Rouge Maison (1 mile north-east of 
Vailly) south-west for about a mile and a half to the 
southern slopes of the Jouy spur, which runs down to the 
Aisne between the villages of Jouy on the east and Sancy 
on the west. The 9th Infantry Brigade held the right of 
this line and the 8th the left. All had orders to continue 
the pursuit on the 14th. At dawn the Royal Scots, of 
the latter brigade, advancing to take up a position on the 
crest of Jouy spur, came under fire at close range, the 
German trenches being just on the other side of the crest 
of the ridge. The Royal Irish came up on their right, and 
the 4 /Middlesex on their left ; and the three battalions, 
only some fifteen hundred strong, slowly made their way 
almost to the crest. The British batteries on the south 
bank did their best to support them ; but the XL. Brigade 
R.F.A., which had crossed the river at Vailly soon after 
daylight, could find no position from which it could come 
into action. 

For some hours the 8th Infantry Brigade clung to the 
ground which it had gained ; and meanwhile, about 
7.30 A.M., the enemy opened an attack, covered by the fire 
of artillery and machine guns, on the Lincolnshire and 
Royal Fusiliers of the 9th Infantry Brigade, to the right 
and left of Rouge Maison. The German trenches, which 
had been concealed from the Royal Fusiliers by the fog, 
were in fact less than six hundred yards away, and only 
two hundred yards beyond the crest of the ridge. The 
Northumberland Fusiliers were sent up to the left of the 
Royal Fusiliers, and the three battalions were ordered 
to meet the German offensive by a counter-attack. A 
successful advance here was particularly desirable, inas- 


much as the Germans had placed batteries on the flanks 14 Sept. 
of the two valleys which run down to the Aisne east and 1914 - 
west of Vailly, and were bursting shells very accurately 
over the pontoon bridge by that village. 

Whilst the 9th Infantry Brigade was slowly forcing its 
way through the dripping woods against a driving mist, 
about 9 A.M., the Germans delivered a heavy counter- 
attack upon the 8th Infantry Brigade on Jouy spur, 
supporting it by machine-gun fire from the west ; so after 
suffering severely the brigade, about 10 A.M., began to 
fall back. Urgent messages were despatched to the 7th 
Infantry Brigade from 3rd Divisional Headquarters to come 
up in support ; but its commander, on nearing the pontoon 
bridge at Vailly, found the shell fire so heavy that he 
turned the head of the brigade further upstream to the 
damaged railway bridge, the breach in which was travers- 
able only by a single plank. Before, however, the brigade 
could pass it, British soldiers were filing back over the 
narrow passage towards the southern bank. The 9th 
Infantry Brigade, upon emerging from the woods, had 
been received with a murderous fire from artillery and 
machine guns, and after enduring it for a while and 
attempting to entrench, the right battalion, the Lincoln- 
shire, had given way, and the rest of the brigade had fallen 
back. The Royal Fusiliers, their flank being uncovered 
by the retirement of the Lincolnshire, had been compelled 
to withdraw to a sunken road just to south of Rouge 
Maison. The Fifth Fusiliers, whose leading company 
had advanced too far into the open whilst the remainder 
were still entangled in the woods, had been very 
severely handled, but rallied on the Royal Fusiliers. 
The Scots Fusiliers, the last reserve of the brigade, had 
already been thrown into the fight, half of them on the 
right and half on the left ; and the former, being enfiladed 
by machine guns while toiling over heavy beetroot fields 
waist deep in dripping leaves, had been driven back with 
heavy losses. 

The situation was critical, for owing to the gap between 
the I. and II. Corps, the right flank of the 9th Infantry 
Brigade was absolutely exposed ; had the Germans followed 
up their advantage the consequences might have been 
serious. The western side of the Soupir spur, the valley of 
the Ostel west of it, and the spur between that valley and 
St. Precord a space fully a mile and a half wide was open 
to them. The British gunners to the south of the Aisne 


were cut off from the battlefield by the mist. If the 
Germans could have advanced in force they would probably 
have outflanked and thus overwhelmed the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade to the east, and the 8th and 9th Infantry Brigades 
to the west of the gap, and cut the British Army in two. 
There were, it is true, two regiments of the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade in Vailly. They had crossed the pontoon bridge 
in the early morning ; but the fog had lifted for a time 
while the last regiment, the 20th Hussars, was filing over, 
and it had been ordered to re-cross at once to the south 
bank. The Scots Greys and 12th Lancers, who remained in 
Vailly, were under heavy and continuous shell fire. Their 
five or six hundred rifles might have delayed, but could 
hardly have averted a catastrophe. 

However, whether from dread of the British guns on 
the heights of Chassemy, which were searching for the con- 
cealed German batteries across the river, or from the effects 
of his own heavy losses, the enemy made no immediate 
offensive movement. By 1 P.M. the I/ Wiltshire of the 7th 
Infantry Brigade had crossed the Aisne by the railway 
bridge, deployed with its right on the Vailly Ostel road, 
and now, though heavily shelled on the way, hastened to 
the assistance of the 9th Infantry Brigade on the spur to 
the east of St. Precord. Thus reinforced, the brigade stood 
fast. At 3.30 P.M., the Irish Rifles of the 7th Infantry 
Brigade came up on the left of the Wiltshire, bringing the 
intelligence that a strong German column was moving 
south-eastward from Ostel. Warning of this movement 
was at once sent to the 4th (Guards) Brigade. 'The re- 
mainder of the 7th Infantry Brigade continued to pass the 
river ; whilst the 8th Infantry Brigade fell back to the south 
of Jouy spur, with its right on the road that leads from 
Vailly to Aizy, and its left west of the chateau of Vauxelles 
(f mile north-west of Vailly). 

The 3rd Division, thus compactly drawn together, held 
its own without difficulty until dusk ; and at 5.30 P.M. 
General Hamilton declared himself confident of his ability 
to maintain his position on the north bank of the Aisne. 
Nevertheless, the casualties had been serious : the 9th In- 
fantry Brigade had lost between six and seven hundred 
men, and the 7th and 8th Infantry Brigades about one 
hundred and fifty, losses which would not have been 
felt so much had not the battalions been already below 

As a result of the improvement in the situation, the 5th 


Cavalry Brigade and the XL. Brigade R.F.A. were ordered 14 Sept. 
back. The former re-crossed the pontoon bridge under 1914 - 
heavy shell fire in single file at increased distance, a troop 
at a time, the passage of the bridge being kept open and 
controlled with the greatest coolness by Captain T. Wright, 
V.C., with the assistance of a party of the 57th Field 
Company R.E. The cavalry escaped with some forty men 
and half a dozen horses wounded ; but Captain Wright 
was unfortunately killed. The three batteries, being 
unable to re-cross the river at Vailly, drove 5 miles up the 
valley to Pont Arcy, coming under fire at various points 
on the way, and especially at the bridge itself. Their 
losses were fortunately slight ; but the orderliness of their 
retreat, as also of that of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, under 
such conditions, spoke highly for their discipline. 


It is now time to turn to the 5th and 4th Divisions on Maps 31 
the left of the line. Their operations, though nominally & 32 ' 
in combination with the divisions on the right, were, as it 
turned out, practically distinct, owing to the barrier inter- 
posed by the promontory of Chivres. The 5th Division 
continued the passage of the river during the night of the 
13th/14th by improvised methods, for Missy bridge was 
not ready and still required many hours' work before it 
would be serviceable. The 14th Infantry Brigade, it will 
be remembered, had crossed to Ste. Marguerite on the 13th 
September. The 15th Infantry Brigade was ferried over 
on rafts during the same night at Moulin des Roches (1 mile 
east of Venizel) and reached Ste. Marguerite by 6 A.M. on 
the 14th. The Royal West Kent and Scottish Borderers of 
the 13th Infantry Brigade likewise passed the river under 
cover of darkness, by means of rafts and boats, near the 
wrecked bridge of Missy, but their further advance was then 
stopped by fire, and they took such cover as they could find 
on the north bank. 

The operation orders of the 5th Division for the 14th 
September, in accordance with higher instructions, directed 
the continuation of the pursuit : the 15th Infantry Brigade 
to march via Celles (near Conde) and thence northwards ; 
the 14th and 13th via Missy. 

It early became evident that no progress could be made 
so long as Chivres spur remained in the hands of the enemy. 
This, the highest ground on the field, with the old fort of 

VOL. i 2 A 


Conde on its summit, commands the valley on both sides 
of it for a considerable distance. It was arranged that the 
left of the 14th Infantry Brigade, with two battalions of 
the 13th, should attack eastward from the direction of Ste. 
Marguerite (which village was held by the 12th Infantry 
Brigade), and its right should be thrown forward so as to 
threaten the spur from the south. The 15th Infantry 
Brigade was to make its way through Missy as soon as 
the right of the 14th Infantry Brigade had cleared the 
village, and attack the spur from the south-east. The 
XV. Brigade R.F.A. (reduced by previous losses to two 
batteries of four guns apiece), together with the 37th and 
61st Howitzer Batteries, was brought over the Aisne to the 
vicinity of Bucy le Long to support the attack. 

The 14th Infantry Brigade started early, but the 
Germans began to burst shells in the valley near Missy, as 
soon as it was light. The progress of the operations was 
very slow. The Manchesters, on the left of the 14th In- 
fantry Brigade, were checked by enfilade fire of artillery 
and machine guns from the village of Chivres and the valley 
above it. The battalion had, in fact, got within three 
hundred yards of the German trenches, but there could 
do little more than hold its own. The Cornwall L.I., in 
the centre, and the East Surreys, on the right, however, 
worked their way round to Missy, very slowly, for the road 
from Ste. Marguerite was under artillery, rifle and machine- 
gun fire ; by noon however the East Surreys were on the 
northern edge of Missy village. Thence they threw out a 
company to feel for the West Kents and Scottish Borderers 
(13th Brigade) on their right. The 15th Infantry Brigade 
had meanwhile also moved from Ste. Marguerite, leaving 
the Dorsets in a sunken road north of the village. At 
2.30 P.M. its head arrived at Missy, and the officer com- 
manding the Bedfordshire at once pushed a company, in 
co-operation with one of the East Surreys, a considerable 
way up the wooded spur beyond the village, where they 
found only a few Germans and established themselves. 
As Ste. Marguerite was being heavily shelled, the re- 
mainder of the brigade was unable to reach Missy until 
more than an hour later ; and it was 4.30 P.M. before the 
dispositions were completed for a final effort by the 14th and 
15th Infantry Brigades to secure the crest of the spur. 

The left centre of the 14th Infantry Brigade, having 
been absolutely stopped by the frontal fire from the enemy's 
trenches on the western side of the spur and by the flanking 


fire from the Chivres valley, the new attack was made up 14 Sept. 
the spur from the south ; ten companies (including the two 1914 * 
already on the spur) three from the Norfolks, four from 
the Bedfords, of the 15th Infantry Brigade, and three from 
the East Surreys of the 14th Infantry Brigade, with sup- 
ports from the Cheshire and Cornwall L.I. were detailed 
for it. As they advanced northwards up the hill, the woods 
were found to be held by the enemy with an organized 
system of trenches protected by wire netting and fencing. 1 
The companies of Bedfords and East Surreys, on the left, 
were the first to enter the woods ; and they pressed on 
steadily, shooting down a good many Germans and making 
headway by sheer superiority of marksmanship. In fact, 
on the left of the attack all seemed to be going well. 

But on the right it was otherwise. Whether, in view 
of the failing light, insufficient time had been allowed 
for the various units to reach their several starting points, 
or because the wire netting in the woods caused them to 
converge, it is difficult to say it is only certain that, in 
spite of all precautions, some companies lost direction, and 
that the right tended to close in on the centre, where the 
overcrowding and confusion became so great that few 
could tell in which direction they should fire, whilst both 
British and German guns shelled the woods. The inevitable 
result soon followed. Confused advance gave place to con- 
fused retirement ; and Brigadier-General Count Gleichen, 
the senior officer on the spot, decided to abandon the 
attack, called back his battalions and broke off the fight. 

Three companies of the East Surrey and a company 
of the Bedfordshire, however, still stuck to the ground 
which they had gained within seventy yards of the German 
trenches. They were still striving to push forward until, 
between 6 and 7 P.M., they received orders to fall back. 
The 15th Infantry Brigade was then re-formed south of 
Missy, and a line was taken up by the 14th Infantry Brigade 
and entrenched, starting from the left, from the eastern 
end of Bucy le Long across the mouth of the Chivres valley 
to Missy village ; whence the West Kents and Scottish 
Borderers of the 13th Infantry Brigade prolonged it to 
Missy bridge. The casualties had not been heavy, but the 
loss of even one hundred men was a serious thing to these 
already depleted battalions. 2 

1 According to Bloern, his regiment reached Chivres spur on the 
12th September ; so there had been plenty of time to entrench. 

2 See footnote 1, p. 357, for the German forces opposite the 5th 



Maps 31 West of the 5th Division, the 4th had received orders 
& 32 to push on northward over the plateau between Vregny 
and Crouy, with the double object of dislodging the 
German heavy guns, which from Clamecy (2 miles north 
of Crouy) were stopping the advance of General Maunoury's 
right, and of helping forward the advance of the 5th 
Division. By 1 A.M. on the 14th, the 10th Infantry 
Brigade had completed its passage of the river ; and an 
hour later it was sent up to reinforce the llth Infantry 
Brigade which, secure by its own boldness, was still occupy- 
ing the line of heights from Ste. Marguerite to Crouy, 
a front of 3 miles. The 12th Infantry Brigade held a 
line on the right of tjie llth. Its right was thrown back 
into the Chivres valley, the right flank resting on the stream 
about five hundred yards south of Chivres village, which was 
the point of junction of the 5th and 4th Divisions. Thence 
the line ran west-north-west over the valley to the northern 
edge of Ste. Marguerite spur, at a point immediately south 
of Vregny, and thence to the crest of the hill between 
Le Moncel and Ste. Marguerite. The 39th and 68th 
Batteries, with a section of the 88th, were in the open a 
little to north-east of Venizel a position exposed to the 
fire of the German guns on Chivres spur, but the best 
that could be found. The 31st and 55th Howitzer Batteries 
also crossed the river about dawn and, in order to facilitate 
the advance of the French, moved to a position a hundred 
yards north-west of La Montagne Farm (north-east of 
Bucy le Long), and opened fire on German guns which 
were on the ridge about thirteen hundred yards north- 
west of Crouy. 

The difficulty of giving any artillery support to a direct 
attack by the 4th Division was so great that the divisional 
commander l hesitated to commit himself to such an 
operation unless the 5th Division on his right or the French 
on his left should make a decided forward movement. 
The right of the French Sixth Army could not' force its 
way beyond Crouy, nor establish itself on the plateau 
north of Pommiers (2 miles west of Soissons). The 
French had no heavy artillery comparable with that of 
the Germans ; and immediately east and west of Soissons 

1 Brigadier-General H. F. M. Wilson ; Major-General Snow had been 
disabled by a serious accident near La Ferte sous Jouarre. 


the heights on the north bank of the Aisne are, at the 14 Sept. 
nearest point, over five thousand yards distant from those 1914 
on the south bank. The 5th Division, for reasons already 
explained, was progressing very slowly. So far as infantry 
was concerned the numbers facing the British 4th and 5th 
Divisions did not appear to be very great, though as a 
matter of fact the whole of the German //. Corps and parts 
of the ///. and IX. were opposite to them ; x but all 
approaches to the enemy's position, which was entrenched 
and was of great natural strength, were swept by artillery, 
which was in great force, and by machine guns. 

At daylight intermittent fire was opened on the line of 
the 4th Division and on its batteries ; and work upon the 
trenches of the 10th Infantry Brigade could only be 
carried on at intervals, so that the shelter obtained by the 
battalions was, in many cases, inadequate, and among 
the killed was Lt.-Col. Sir E. Bradford commanding the 
2/Seaforth Highlanders. At noon the fire increased so 
greatly that a German attack on the spur of La Montagne 
(west of Le Moncel) was apprehended ; and a company 
of the Dublins was sent forward to make a counter-attack. 
This company advanced for half a mile, engaged hostile 
infantry in a beetroot field at four hundred yards' range, 
and by sheer marksmanship silenced its fire. This practi- 
cally ended the active work of the 4th Division for the day. 
The casualties were slight for the most part ; but the 10th 
Infantry Brigade lost one hundred officers and men, chiefly 
owing to the fact that they had been unable to dig them- 
selves really good trenches. 


The close of the I. Corps operations on the 14th Maps 31 
September can now be shortly told. News of the repulse & 32 * 
of the 3rd Division reached Corps Headquarters about 
2 P.M. ; and the serious menace which it meant to the left 
flank of the 2nd Division was instantly realized. 2 Not a 
single battalion was available in corps or divisional 
reserve, every one having been thrown into the fight ; 
but the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades were at once 
despatched to the left, near Soupir. After an interview 

1 II. Corps held Vregny Crouy, with the 5th Division of the III. 
Corps east of it, on Chivres spur. Then came Kraewel's Composite Brigade 
of the IX. Corps, and next the 6th Division, extending to Vailly, inclusive. 

2 See pp. 350-52. 


with Brig. - General Perceval, R.A., who was in com- 
mand at Soupir, Brig. -General Briggs pushed the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade on to Chavonne, where it arrived about 
3.30 P.M. Finding the 4th (Guards) Brigade holding the 
village, he forthwith sent a regiment to occupy a com- 
manding bluff west of Chavonne and the wood beyond 
that again, with a section to connect it with the 3rd 
Division. About the same time, various reports were 
received tending to show that the enemy was retreat- 
ing, and the G.O.C. 2nd Division ordered the general 
advance on the main ridge to be resumed in the direction 
of Courtecon, the original objective. The commander 
of the 4th (Guards) Brigade thereupon ordered the 
2 /Grenadiers and the troops south-west of La Cour de 
Soupir * to advance and swing round, pivoting on that 
farm, so as to face northward. The Irish Guards on their 
right however were already in motion north-westwards 
in the woods which clothe the eastern side of the Soupir 
spur, and this enveloping movement caused about one 
hundred and fifty Germans, near La Cour de Soupir, to 
begin waving white flags. On this the British ceased fire 
and some of the Irish and Coldstream Guards rushed out 
of the woods to receive the surrender. No sooner did they 
show themselves in the open than a second body of Germans 
appeared on the sky-line and opened fire. Meanwhile, 
the main body of the Irish Guards, on approaching within 
two hundred yards of the northern edge of the woods, 
was checked by a storm of bullets from trenches in the 
open ground a hundred yards beyond it. A German 
counter-attack now began to develop south-eastwards from 
Ostel towards La Cour de Soupir; and the 2/Grenadiers 
and 3 /Coldstream lined the road to the north of the 
farm, fronting north-north-west, supported by a machine 
gun in the farm enclosure. This position they held until 
dusk ; but they were unable to advance further owing 
to the enemy on their left flank, and ultimately the bulk 
of the 4th (Guards) Brigade entrenched and bivouacked 
where it stood. Its casualties were not far short of five 
hundred killed and wounded. 

The 6th Infantry Brigade on the right of the 4th fared 
little better ; owing to heavy shelling, it could only just 
hold its own without any thought of forward movement. 1 
On its right again, Brigadier-General Haking (5th Infantry 
Brigade) with the 2/Highland Light Infantry and the 

1 See p. 349. 


2/Worcestershire, and half the 1/K.R.R.C. of the 6th In- wscpt. 
fantry Brigade managed to advance up the eastern slopes 1914 - 
of the Beaulne spur, and there held on. Of the two re- 
maining battalions of the 5th Infantry Brigade, which for a 
time had been nominally in corps reserve, the Connaught 
Rangers were still with the 4th (Guards) Brigade at La 
Cour de Soupir, and the Oxfords near Soupir, where they 
had been sent by Sir Douglas Haig to assist in securing 
the left of his corps. 

On the extreme right, the situation towards evening 
had sensibly improved. The French XVIII. Corps had 
begun the day badly, for by 10 A.M. it had been severely 
handled, and had been driven from Craonne and Craonnelle. . 
The French Colonial Division, immediately on the right 
of the British, had likewise at the outset suffered a repulse ; 
but now the XVIII. Corps was again in possession of 
Craonne, and the ridge immediately to the west of it ; 
and the Colonial Division was advancing again over the 
plateau of Paissy upon Les Creutes (2J miles south- 
east of Cerny). The enemy was snowing signs of 
hesitation ; and Sir Douglas Haig felt that the time was 
come for a general forward movement of the I. Corps. 
The commander of the 2nd Division had as we have seen 
anticipated this ; in the 1st Division there had been no 
change in the general disposition since last described, 
except that Lieut. -Colonel Warren of the Queen's, after 
sharp fighting at La Bovelle, had skilfully extricated his 
battalion from its dangerously advanced position, and 
brought it back at 4.30 P.M. to the foremost of the British 
guns on the Chemin des Dames. It was just about this 
time that Sir Douglas Haig issued orders for the general 
advance. It was dusk or even later before the 1st 
Division was under way, by which time Lieutenant-Colonel 
Ponsonby also had evacuated his advanced position at 
Cerny, and brought back his detachment, much thinned by 
heavy losses, into the general line. The Troyon factory also 
had, after heavy bombardment, been reoccupied by the 
Germans at dusk, and their abandoned guns had, under 
cover of a counter-attack, been carried off. The light was 
failing fast when the 3rd Infantry Brigade pushed forward 
between the 2nd and 5th Infantry Brigades, and carried 
the line forward to within three hundred yards of the 
Chemin des Dames, the Welch capturing a hundred 
prisoners and a machine gun. But, mistaking the Germans 
in the factory for British, the 3rd Infantry Brigade missed 


its chance of recapturing that building. General Haking, 
when it became dusk, continued his advance over heaps 
of German bodies to the top of the main ridge opposite 
Courtecon. The 3rd and 5th Infantry Brigades, however, 
were never really in touch ; and, in fact, General Haking, 
after sending out patrols, found only the enemy on either 
side, and judging it imprudent to remain in his forward 
position withdrew his two and a half battalions after dark 
to Verneuil and Moussy. The 3rd Infantry Brigade was 
left on the ground that it had so honourably won ; but, 
on the whole, though a final effort was fully justified, no 
solid advantage was gained by it. With a few fresh 
battalions to put life into the fight, the results might have 
been widely different. 


Maps 31 On the whole, the results of the 14th September were 
& 32 ' disappointing. The I. Corps had certainly made some 
progress, but at heavy cost, for its casualties amounted 
to three thousand five hundred. In the 1st (Guards), 2nd 
Infantry and 4th (Guards) Brigades, the I/Cameron High- 
landers lost six hundred officers and men, the 1/Coldstream, 
1 /Loyal North Lancashire and 2 /Sussex, 2 /Grenadiers and 
3/Coldstream, each of them, over three hundred and fifty, 
and the 1/K.R.R.C. over three hundred. Amongst the 
killed was Lieut. -Colonel Adrian Grant-Duff commanding 
the 1 /Black Watch, who fell whilst superintending the filling 
of a gap in the line. 1 On the rest of the line the British 
force was stationary; and though the casualties of the 
4th and 5th Divisions were slight, those of the 3rd Division 
fell little short of a thousand. Moreover, the general 
situation of the British was very far from secure. Apart 
from the one and a half mile gap between the 2nd and 3rd 
Divisions, covered by battle outposts of the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade, the 5th and 4th Divisions, separated from the 
rest of the Army by the promontory of Chivres, held their 
position on the north bank of the Aisne on a most pre- 
carious tenure. The only link between the two sections 
of the force was the 2nd Cavalry Division (3rd and 5th 
Cavalry Brigades), which, from a position about Chassemy, 

1 As Assistant Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence 1910- 
1913, he had designed and edited the "War Book" (see p. 14) and worked 
out the detailed co-ordination of the action to be taken by the various 
Government Departments on the outbreak of war. 


on the south bank, watched the undestroyed bridge of 14 Sept. 
Conde, to guard against a German counter-attack. Still, 1914 
it was by no means certain, after the day's experience, 
whether the Aisne was being defended by a strong rear 
guard or by an enemy in position. It is known now that, but 
for the determined spirit of the British attack, von Billow, 
who, as already mentioned, was commanding all the German 
Armies defending the Aisne the Second, Seventh and 
First , would have succeeded, as he expected, in sweeping 
the British across the river and securing the ground on the 
south bank. It would seem that here, as on other occa- 
sions in 1914, the sheer audacity of the British in attacking 
with small numbers imposed on the enemy, and made him 
believe that large reserves were behind them. Examina- 
tion of prisoners and of the dead proved that the greater 
part of the German VII. Reserve Corps and at least one 
division of the ///. Corps l had been pitted against the 
British I. Corps. It was plain that the British were 
distributed on a front far too extensive for their strength, 
except in defence. Practically every battalion was in the 
firing line, and there was no general reserve whatever. 
The two corps in the field (for the III. was still a corps 
in name only) required at least another division apiece if 
they were to do the work assigned to them. 

Again, there was no permanent bridge available over 
the deep and rain-swollen waters of the Aisne ; and, 
though the Engineers had displayed characteristic energy 
and self-sacrifice in the laying of temporary bridges, yet 
these were, most of them, exposed to fire, and always in 
danger, owing to the nearly incessant rain, of being suddenly 
carried away by a flood. In any case, the greater part 
of the valley was open to the shells of the German artillery. 
On the left of the line it was impossible to establish any 
depots of supplies and stores on the north bank ; every- 
thing required had to be brought down to the river and 
across it by night. At Missy, the most dangerous point 
of all, the supply wagons on the night of the 14th September 
were brought safely to within two hundred yards of the 
German trenches and as safely withdrawn ; but frequently 
rations could only be brought over by hand. The wounded 
could not be brought in except at night ; and the stretcher 
bearers toiled with equal courage and devotion through 
the hours of darkness, carrying disabled men for one or 
two miles over heavy soaked ground before they could 

1 Part of the 6th Division. See also p. 409. 


deliver them to a horse ambulance. Even on the south 
bank trains of transport were occasionally caught by the 
enemy's high-explosive shells of greater calibre than any 
which the French or British had yet available, and fired 
from a range which forbade any effective reply. All 
ranks, however, whether of combatant or non-combatant 
branches, were confident of a further and immediate 
advance. On the enemy's side there was corresponding 
depression, for on the evening of the 14th September, as 
will be seen below, the Supreme Command issued an order 
for a general retirement if the First Army could not hold 
the Aisne line. 


Maps 3, 4 The attack of the Allies had anticipated and prevented 
& 32> the execution of von Billow's programme for driving 
them across the Aisne 1 but there were many vicissitudes. 
The early part of the day, according to their own 
accounts, was a most anxious time for the Germans: 2 
" Nothing was to be seen of the XV. Corps, in whose attack 
" the VII. Reserve was to co-operate ; far from troops 
" coming on, parts of von der Marwitz's Cavalry Corps 
" (which was to cover its advance) sent their baggage 
" back in the direction of Bruyeres (south of Laon). They 
" were very exhausted. Strong bodies of cavalry followed 
" and took cover behind Fort Montberault (4 miles north 
" of Troyon and von Zwehl's headquarters). It was 
" reported and seen that forces considerably stronger than 
" our own, as it was supposed, had crossed the Aisne, 
" moving northwards. The VII. Reserve Corps and also 
" the III. Corps felt they must confine themselves to the 
" defensive." 

The attack of General Bulfin's two battalions against 
Troyon 3 was met by three battalions of the 27th Reserve 
Brigade, supported by three batteries of Reserve Field 
Artillery Regiment No. 14 ; but just as the situation became 
critical for them, assistance arrived in the form of 1,200 
infantry reinforcements, a company of the 78th Regiment 
of the X. Corps, and a Horse Artillery Abteilung of the 
9th Cavalry Division.* 

1 See p. 340. 2 Zwehl, p. 71. s See p. 341 et seq. 

* Zwehl, p. 73. According to "Deutsche Kavallerie," p. 121, the 
Machine-Gun Troop, Cyclist Battalion, Jager and dismounted men of the 
9th Cavalry Division also took part. 


The 27th Reserve Brigade, however, was wavering, and 14 Sept. 
reported that it was attacked by very superior force. 1914 - 
Von Zwehl called up the 13th Reserve Division and ///. 
Corps on its right to come to its help by taking the offensive, 
and ordered his last reserve, the 25th Landwehr Brigade, 
to its left. " Vital support was given by the two 8 -inch 
" howitzer batteries, which were brought into action south 
" of Chamouille in the valley of the Ailette. The howitzers, 
" about 12.30 P.M., succeeded in stopping an attack 
" threatening the left flank of the 27th Reserve Infantry 
" Brigade. In spite of this, affairs became more and more 
" critical." Between 2 and 3 P.M., two fresh battalions 
arrived from Maubeuge ; they attempted a counter- 
attack, but failed to do more than assist in holding the 

Meanwhile, the 13th Reserve Division was entrenching 
itself on the Chemin des Dames, north of Braye. Before 
9 A.M. the corps commander ordered an attack towards 
Moussy, where the advance of the 2nd Division had been 
reported. Affairs at Troy on were, however, too critical, 
and at 10 A.M. the flank attack to relieve the situation was 
begun ; this was defeated by the 1 /South Wales Borderers 
and 2/Welch (3rd Infantry Brigade), with the assistance 
of the 46th and 113th Batteries. 1 The attack was carried 
out by three battalions and two machine-gun companies 
of the 25th Reserve Brigade, and a battery. Its repulse 
seems to have been more complete than the British accounts 
indicate. 2 One battalion " had to retire with heavy losses. 
" The remains of it assembled under the steep slope, south 
" of Courtecon." The other two battalions " were com- 
ic pelled to give up their positions, as the companies had 
" got thoroughly mixed up. ... They assembled on the 
" reverse slope between Malval Farm (1 mile west of 
" Courtecon) and Courtecon. The brigade commander was 
" mortally wounded." 

The other brigade (28th Reserve, 4 battalions) of the 13th 
Reserve Division made a short advance to Braye, where it 
had the fire fight already described with the 6th Infantry 
Brigade. " At 4 P.M. came the information that the left 
" wing of the III. Corps (which apparently had attacked 
i4 the 4th (Guards) Brigade near Soupir) was going back. 
" At dusk the 28th Reserve Brigade retired to the position 
" it had held in the morning." 

Turning now to what was happening in front of the 

1 See p. 344. 2 Zwehl, p. 76. 


French XVIII. Corps on the British right : the German 
28th (Active) Brigade of the 14th Reserve Division at Craonne 
and the 2nd Cavalry Division of von der Marwitz's Cavalry 
Corps on its left were being roughly handled and driven 
back, when the XV. Corps appeared just in time to save 
them from destruction. The corps which thus came to the 
rescue had been brought by rail from Alsace. After a 
delay at Brussels, where part of it was detained from two 
to four days on account of the sortie from Antwerp, 1 it 
detrained at Busigny and marched to St. Quentin, the 
assembly area of the Seventh Army, which its leading 
troops reached on the 12th September. It was immediately 
ordered east by von Heeringen. Early on the 13th it 
continued its march through La Fere to near Laon, and 
thence on the 14th to the left of the VII. Reserve Corps. 
The leading division reached Corbeny and the line of 
battle and deployed about 2 P.M. on the 14th. Its sister 
division eventually came up on its left. At 2.30 P.M. von 
Billow, quite unnecessarily, issued an order that they were 
not to cross the Aisne. 2 

The arrival of another corps, intact and up to strength, 
from a quiet part of the front, and of two rested battalions 
from Maubeuge, put new life into the exhausted divisions 
of the VII. Reserve Corps, and, as already narrated, a 
counter-attack on the whole front of the Chemin des Dames 
resulted in the French and British being driven back 
from their advanced positions to the southern slopes of 
the ridge. But there still remained a gap of three or four 
miles between von Billow's right and the Seventh Army, of 
which General Maud'huy (XVIII. Corps) was endeavouring 
to take advantage. To parry this blow von Billow had col- 
lected reinforcements to nearly the strength of a division 
under General Steinmetz, and the Supreme Command 
ordered westward the XII. Corps from the Third Army. 
By midday on the 14th, the advanced guard of this corps 
was at Warmeriville (12 miles east of Berry au Bac) 
where orders from von Biilow reached it to send on its 
artillery and cavalry without delay to assist Steinmetz 
and then continue its march eastwards. 3 The Guard and 
2nd Cavalry Divisions were also brought from the British 
front eastward to the gap. Thus reinforced the German 
line not only held its own opposite the French but made 

1 See p. 322. 2 Zwehl, p. 75. 

8 Its advanced guard reached the line of battle about three miles 
north-east of Berry au Bac at 6 A.M. next day. 


some advance and established itself on the high ground 14 Sept. 
north of the Aisne, north-east of Berry au Bac. The 1914 - 
situation had been critical, for the VII. Corps, the right 
of the German Second Army, had put into the fight every 
man it possessed except its last reserve battalion. 

On the night of the 14th/15th the dispositions of the 
German forces in front of the British Army and the left 
of the French Fifth Army, from west to east were : //. 
Corps, Crouy to Vregny ; ///. Corps thence to Ostel ; 
VII. Reserve Corps and 9th Cavalry Division thence to 
Craonnelle ; the above, except the 28th (Active) Brigade 
(the left of the VII. Reserve Corps), supported by a brigade 
of the IX. Corps and various small reinforcements, covered 
the British front. 

Then came in succession the XV. Corps, Guard and 
2nd Cavalry Divisions, Steinmetz's Division supported 
by the XII. Corps, and the VII. Corps. These troops 
effectively closed the gap between the German First and 
Second Armies and it was now as strongly held as any 
other part of the line. There was little hope of driving 
the Allies back, but the crisis was completely over. Only 
on the extreme right of the line was there any anxiety. 
There, although von Kluck stated he could hold his front, 
he had withdrawn his right flank to prevent envelopment 
from the direction of Compiegne. The Supreme Command 
in consequence sent off the following instructions to von 
Biilow which were received during the night of the 

tc If the First Army cannot hold the Aisne Valley, it should 
" retire in good time (rechtzeitig) in the general direction of 
" La Fere behind the river valley. In this case, the Second and 
" Seventh Armies will hold the line Laon Rheims." l 
But no such action was found necessary. 

Possibly, this was the last order issued under the 
authority of von Moltke, for on the evening of the 14th 
September, Lieut.-General von Falkenhayn, then Minister 
of War, was entrusted with the duties of the Chief of the 
Staff of the Field Army in his place, although the change 
was not immediately made known. 2 


The situation of the British troops on the night of the Maps 31 
14th/15th September was as follows : & 32. 

1 Biilow, p. 71. 2 Falkenhayn, p. 1. 


I. Corps : right on the Chemin des Dames, 4 miles from the 

Aisne ; left almost on the Aisne near Chavonne. 

1st Division : From a point on the Chemin des Dames about 
1,000 yards east of Troyon factory, south-west behind 
the factory, over the ridge to Mont Faucon and into 
the valley south of Chivy, with two advanced detach- 
ments at the head of the Chivy valley. 

4th Cavalry Brigade : Paissy and Geny (south of Paissy), 
behind the junction of French and British armies. 

2nd Division : From the southern end of Beaulne spur, 
across the Braye valley to the vicinity of La Bovette, 
and thence, by La Cour de Soupir, to Point 166 just 
north of Chavonne. 

1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades : Connecting the I. and II. 
Corps ; from point 166 to the mill midway between 
Chavonne and Vailly. 

II. Corps : in two portions, barely across the river, with a gap 

of 3J miles between them. 

3rd Division : From the mill aforesaid, north-west to Rouge 
Maison, thence with the Aisne south-west to Vauxelles 
Chateau and the confluence of the stream which runs 
southward from Aizy. 

5th Division : From Missy westward to Ste. Marguerite. 
Two battalions of the 13th Infantry Brigade south of 
the Aisne about Sermoise (south-east of Missy). 

III. Corps : on the edge of the main ridge. 

4th Division : From Ste. Marguerite north-west to La 
Montagne Farm, thence westward to Point 151 (east 
of Crouy). 

19th Infantry Brigade : South of the Aisne about Venizel. 

3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades : on the south bank of the 
Aisne, Chassemy southward to Augy. 

On the right of the British, the French Fifth Army had 
at first made good progress towards forcing back the 
western flank of the German Second Army, but was faced 
by an ever increasing volume of artillery fire ; its XVIII. 
Corps, on the left, endeavouring to secure the eastern end 
of the Chemin des Dames ridge, was heavily counter- 
attacked at Craonnelle by the XV. Corps of the German 
Seventh Army. Towards evening however the situation 
had improved. The I. Corps occupied Rheims. Between 
the I. and XVIII. were the III. Corps, on the Aisne 
Marne Canal, and Valabregue's group of Reserve divisions 
near Berry au Bac. 1 Thus the French line ran almost 

1 This group according to M. Madelin (" Revue des Deux Mondes "1918, 
pp. 820-821) was heavily attacked and could not progress beyond the Aisne. 
It therefore left the XVIII. Corps " en 1'air." 


straight from Rheims to Craonnelle, everywhere in contact is Sept. 
with the enemy. Nearest the British were the Algerian 1914 - 
troops of the XVIII. Corps in echelon to their right rear. 

On the left of the British, the French Sixth Army was 
across the Aisne from Soissons to Attichy (3 miles west of 
Vic), with its extreme left 7 miles N.N.E. of the last 
named place, at Nampcel ; but it also had encountered a 
well-entrenched enemy, and was unable to make the 
decisive progress against the German flank for which 
General Joffre had hoped. 


Operation orders for the 15th September issued from Sketch 7. 
G.H.Q. only contained information as to the situation, 1 but Ma P s 31 
the Commander-in-Chief, at a personal interview at his head- & 33 ' 
quarters at Fere en Tardenois with the commanders of the 
II. and III. Corps, and the Brigadier-General General Staff of 
the I. Corps, at 11 P.M., on the 14th, ordered all troops to 
entrench on the positions they occupied. He dwelt on the 
importance of concentrating the heavy guns of the five 
divisions in turn on the heavy batteries of the enemy, and 
instructed the I. Corps, without committing itself in any 
way, to render what assistance it could to the 3rd Division 
(which was barely across the river) by gun fire or infantry 
demonstration. Sir John French was confirmed in his 
view of the situation by the receipt at 1.15 A.M. of the 
following telegram addressed by General Joffre to his 
Army commanders : 

" It seems as if the enemy is once more going to accept 
" battle, in prepared positions north of the Aisne. In con- 
" sequence, it is no longer a question of pursuit, but of a 
" methodical attack, using every means at our disposal and 
" consolidating each position in turn as it is gained." 

There was, however, little opportunity of carrying 
these intentions into effect : the 15th was a day of German 
attacks, but the British were able to repel them all success- 
fully, maintaining their position and inflicting severe loss 
on the enemy. The Royal Flying Corps rendered great 
assistance, for, though there were showers during the day, 
there was no heavy rain until night. Photographs were 
for the first time taken of the enemy's positions ; most 
of his batteries were located, and considerable success was 

1 Appendix 48. 


achieved in assisting the ranging of the artillery. From 
the few movements of troops behind the German lines little 
could be gathered for certain, though the reports of large 
empty bivouacs and movements of trains northwards, and 
of troops moving into massed formations north of Fancy 
(north of Courtecon) 1 still seemed to indicate retirement. 
It is now known that von Billow's orders for the 15th 
September were as regards the British front : 

" The Seventh Army will throw the enemy in front of it 
" back over the Aisne, and will support the First Army." 2 
But the spirit of the Germans was evidently exhausted, for 
their feeble advance hardly deserved the name of attack. 
Even their commander can say no more than that " their 
progress was slow." 

Von Kluck, for his part, repeated his orders to the First 
Army to continue the entrenching of its positions and to 
hold them at all costs. 3 

The 15th was by no means a day of inaction for the 
British. In the 3rd Division, the 7th Infantry Brigade, 
discovering soon after daylight that Germans were en- 
trenching themselves between La Fosse Marguet (1 mile 
north-east of Vailly) and La Rouge Maison (1 J miles N.N.E. 
of Vailly), attempted with two companies of the Irish 
Rifles to clear them out of a wood between these two 
points. The attack was repulsed with severe loss. Still 
German attacks or demonstrations on the line of the 3rd 
Division were all beaten back by rifle and machine-gun fire 
alone, and the situation remained unchanged. Vailly 
bridge was in spite of considerable shelling made passable 
for all traffic except heavy artillery. The 3rd Division, 
it may be noted, was on this day strengthened by the 
arrival of the 1/Devons, which replaced the remnant of 
the 1 /Gordon Highlanders in the 8th Infantry Brigade. 

Further west a final endeavour was made by the 5th 
Division to gain the Chivres spur. The 14th and 15th 
Infantry Brigades were ordered to renew their attacks 
from the south and south-west over the same ground as 
on the previous day, whilst the 13th Infantry Brigade, 
including the two battalions still on the south bank, struck 
in simultaneously from the south-east. The 2/Duke of 
Wellington's were therefore brought over the river at Missy 
on pontoon rafts, but suffered not a little from German 
high-explosive shells while approaching and crossing the 

1 Probably the 2nd Cavalry Division moving eastwards. 
2 Biilow, p. 73. 3 Kluck, p. 141. 


river. The Yorkshire Light Infantry also suffered con- 15 Sept. 
siderably ; it did not pass the river, as the rafts for it 1914 - 
were not ready in time. About 8 A.M. the Norfolks of the 
15th Brigade led the advance, with the Bedfords in support 
and the remainder of the brigade in reserve, over the same 
ground as on the 14th September but on a narrower front. 
It was soon discovered however that the Germans had 
thrown up new defences in the woods, and there was half an 
hour's pause during which the British batteries searched 
them. The ground before the 15th Infantry Brigade was at 
best very unfavourable, for the open country ran up into 
a wooded re-entrant. Advancing once more, the Norfolks 
were stopped by a wire-netting fence six feet high, through 
which there was but one entrance. Wirecutters were to 
hand, but the task of making a gap was long and tedious ; 
and the density of the undergrowth made a flanking attack 
extremely difficult. A few outlying Germans were shot 
down by flanking parties ; but the attack made no pro- 
gress and gradually came to a standstill. In the 14th 
Infantry Brigade, the Cornwall Light Infantry had orders 
to advance up the valley in touch with the 15th Infantry 
Brigade and with its left on the Missy Vregny road ; the 
2 /Manchester on the western side of the Cornwall Light 
Infantry was to advance as soon as the latter's progress 
enabled it to do so. But the Germans on the end of the 
Chivres spur offered a stout resistance ; the advance was 
therefore stopped, and artillery support called for. At 
11 A.M. Brigadier-General Rolt of the 14th Infantry 
Brigade, was placed in command of all troops of the 5th 
Division on the northern bank of the Aisne. Meanwhile, 
the 13th Infantry Brigade found it impossible to move 
along the road towards Conde', which was swept by the 
German artillery, and could not therefore reach its assigned 
position to assail the Chivres spur from the south-east. 
Thus, the whole movement was checked. The rear 
battalions of the 15th Infantry Brigade and the Cornwall 
Light Infantry of the 14th became crowded together in 
Missy ; and a German aeroplane, passing over the village, 
took note of this congestion. At 10 A.M. the German 
artillery poured such a storm of shells upon the houses 
that the battalions were compelled for a time to evacuate 
the village. Gradually they returned to their original 
places in front of it, always under harassing fire from 
German snipers at the edge of the wood ; and there they 
remained until dark. It was then found that there were 
VOL. i 2 B 


far too many men crowded together in the small space ; 
and the 15th Infantry Brigade was ordered to recross to 
the south bank of the river, where a temporary bridge was 
now available. Between 11 P.M. and midnight the Ger- 
mans bombarded Missy heavily and for a short period 
caused some confusion ; but after a trying time the troops 
settled down in the positions ordered under the new 
arrangement. The 15th Infantry Brigade successfully 
completed its passage of the river just before the first 
streak of dawn on the 16th. 

The casualties were not serious, though the Yorkshire 
Light Infantry paid for its unprofitable march down to 
the bank of the Aisne with fifty killed and wounded. But 
it now seemed established beyond doubt that the capture 
of the promontory of Chivres was beyond the strength of 
the British force. 

In the I. Corps the infantry had a comparatively quiet 
day. There were repeated outbursts of shelling from field 
and heavy guns, which caused some losses among the 
artillery horses and disabled one field gun ; and some 
small attacks by the enemy's infantry, which were beaten 
off without difficulty. Advantage was taken of the com- 
parative quiet to begin the construction of a very com- 
plete system of bridges and communication across the 
river and canal, as the enemy had spent a great deal of 
ammunition the previous day in trying to damage the canal 
bridges at Vieil Arcy and Bourg. 

In the 4th Division there was no change in the situation, 
and the day was spent in improving the trenches and 
collecting wire from the fences of the country round, which 
was converted at night into entanglements ; for except 
what the Field Companies carried, no barbed wire nor 
other engineer stores were yet available. 

Right and left of the British, the French had also been 
unable to advance. Eastward the French XVIII. Corps 
in the afternoon lost Craonne and Craonnelle as a result of 
the arrival of German reinforcements 1 after most gallant 
and strenuous fighting. The gap which had existed 
between the German First and Second Armies was now 
completely closed and all chance of turning the western 
flank of the Second Army had disappeared. Westward the 
French Sixth Army could make no progress along the line 

1 On the 15th the German XVIII. Corps from the Fourth Army 
arrived, in addition to the VII. Reserve, XV. and XII. Corps already 


of the Aisne. Though there had been great hopes that is Sept. 
the French IV. Corps might turn the right of the First 1914 " 
Army at Nampcel (about thirteen miles north-east of 
Compiegne) the enemy offered stubborn resistance in that 
quarter, and in addition he had been reinforced. 1 The 
French General Staff was now satisfied that the Germans 
intended to stand on the Aisne. In rear of the river there 
was now no doubt that the troops who had been shaken by 
their defeat at the battle of the Marne, reinforced by fresh 
divisions, were resting and refitting. It was becoming 
clear that, if any immediate progress were to be made by 
either side, it must be by turning movements rather than 
by frontal attack. Everything pointed to the probability, 
if not the certainty, of a deadlock on the line of the Aisne, 
which could only be resolved by a decisive action on the 
one open flank towards the west. For the moment the 
French General Staff hoped that it might be beforehand 
with the enemy in this ; for the district west of the Oise, 
from Compiegne to Montdidier, was now reported fairly 
clear of Germans who, to all appearances, were steadily 
retiring. But meanwhile it was essential to hold the 
enemy to his ground on the existing front. 

There was actually better reason for the optimistic 
views of the French than was afforded by the information 
then available. Von Kluck on receiving the reinforce- 
ments of the IX. Reserve Corps and 7th Cavalry Division, 
already mentioned, forthwith began an operation to clear 
his flank by an offensive movement. These operations 
were by no means to the taste of von Billow, who appar- 
ently feared that the First Army would repeat the fatal 
manoeuvre it had made towards the Ourcq, and that he 
would no sooner have filled one gap than von Kluck would 
make another. He forbade the operation, and his prin- 
cipal interest during the 15th September seems to have 
been to secure that it was stopped. It is typical of the 
relations of these two commanders that, although von 
Kluck had been temporarily placed under von Biilow, the 
latter had to appeal to the Supreme Command to enforce 
obedience to his orders. 

1 The 7th Cavalry Division from Alsace and the IX. Reserve Corps 
from Antwerp arrived on the 15th. The place of the latter was taken by 



(See Sketches 1, 7 & 8 ; Maps 2, 3, 4, 31, 33 & 34) 

Sketch i. WITH the stand of the Germans on the Aisne, where they 
Map 2 filled up the great gap which had existed in their line 
during the battle of the Marne, and the successful defence 
of the French Armies in Lorraine against all attacks, an 
entirely new strategic situation arose. With this it seems 
desirable to deal before proceeding to describe the further 
operations on the Aisne, for it is the key to the events with 
which the remainder of this volume is concerned. 

The front of the French Armies on the right of the 
British, though fighting continued sporadically, was by 
the middle of September practically stabilized on the 
ground where it was to remain so long, with the one excep- 
tion that a weak place in the line of the Third Army gave 
an opportunity in the third week of September to German 
troops from Metz to push in and secure the St. Mihiel 
salient. Thus the eastern wing of each belligerent force 
became, so to say, anchored, and as the outer flanks rested 
on Switzerland, they could not be turned on that side. The 
western flank both of the Allies and the Germans, on the 
contrary, lay perfectly open ; it was therefore still possible 
to continue the enveloping movements which both sides 
had in turn attempted, with the result, it is true, of gain 
of ground and prisoners, but hitherto without decisive 

There were, however, other good and weighty reasons 
for pursuing operations on the western flank. In the 
great interval between the Oise and the Dutch frontier 
lay objectives of the highest importance to both sides. 
The Channel ports were practically defenceless ; only a 



few scattered French Territorial battalions about Peronne, Mid-Sept. 
Douai, and Lille interposed between them and the German 1914 - 
Armies. General von Falkenhayn has said : "It still 
" seemed possible, providing the present German front 
" held, to bring the northern coast of France and therefore 
: ' the control of the English Channel into German posses- 
" sion." 1 Turning to the other side, the German com- 
munications were in danger : " the only line of supply of 
" any use to the greater part of the western half of the 
14 German Armies was the railway leading from Belgium 
" into the St. Quentin district. This was almost wholly 
' l unprotected against enemy attacks." 2 Hence, an ex- 
tension of the front to the west was imperative for each 
of the belligerent parties, both on offensive and defensive 
grounds. Further, it was of the utmost importance to 
the Allies to re-establish connection with the Belgian Army 
which was still holding out in Antwerp, to secure Lille, 
and to cover the Bethune coalfields. 

In the latter half of September, therefore, both bel- 
ligerents began to make preparations for extending their 
lines westwards and northwards by withdrawing troops 
from other parts of the front. Each cherished hopes of 
enveloping the open flank of the other, and of rolling up 
his line, and each in the meantime endeavoured by attack- 
ing on the old front to hold his foe to his ground and 
prevent him transferring forces to the vital flank. 

The failure of the French Sixth Army to turn the open 
right flank of the German line during the advance from the 
Ourcq to the Aisne and during the first days of the fighting 
on the Aisne had not altered General Joffre's determina- 
tion to persist in operations to that end. He had already 
brought the XIII. Corps from the First Army to reinforce 
the Sixth, and other corps and all available cavalry were 
soon to follow. But he was careful on the 17th September, 
in Special Instruction No. 29, to point out that "it is 
" essential to maintain an offensive attitude in order to 
" keep the enemy under threat of attack and thus prevent 
" him from disengaging and transferring portions of his 
" forces from one point to another." On the 18th Sep- 
tember he informed Sir John French that " the general 
;t offensive would be resumed as soon as a new Army that 
14 he was concentrating in the west was in a position to 
" move forward." 

To the German Supreme Command the danger to the 

1 Falkenhayn, p. 13. 2 Falkenhayn, p. 12. 


western flank of the Armies was naturally patent, even if 
the commander of the German First Army had not failed 
to bring it to notice. On the 15th September he reported 
that his " westward communications were in danger ; 
" enemy column of all arms moving from Clermont reached 
" Compiegne at noon." He received instructions that 
" in the event of the right flank of the First Army being 
imperilled, the Army will withdraw due north." 

On the evening of the 15th September General von 
Falkenhayn took over the duties of the Chief of the General 
Staff, as already stated. He thus appreciated the situa- 
tion : " The danger of an effective outflanking movement 
4 was threatening from the far bank of the Oise. The 
" German right flank which rested on this river was in the 
" air, without any reserves worth mentioning behind it. 
" There was definite information that the enemy was con- 
" tinuing the movement of strong forces westwards. The 
" question whether or no it would be expedient to facilitate 
" the German operations by withdrawing the front and 
" thus rendering the enemy's attempt at envelopment 
" more difficult was negatived." l General von Falkenhayn 
" took immediate steps to prevent the continuance of the 
" movements of French troops round to the western flank 
" by ordering counter-attacks along the whole front," 
principally along the Aisne front and east and west of 
Rheims. Many of these attacks fell, as will be narrated, 
on the British Army. But " they did not produce the 
" hoped-for results, and the attempt to prevent or divert 
" the movement of enemy troops was unsuccessful." 


Sketch?. Sir John French's operation orders for the 16th Sep- 
Map 31. tember ordered the line held by the Army to be strongly 
entrenched. 2 He still, however, had hopes of being able 
to push forward eventually and added that it was his 
intention to assume a general offensive at the first oppor- 
tunity. His orders proved to be the official notification of 
the commencement of trench warfare. Next day with the 
same proviso as before he ordered the line to be strength- 
ened by every available means ; and thenceforward, the 
general situation remaining unaltered, the daily issue of 
operation orders ceased, and they were prepared only when 
some considerable change in the situation or a projected 
1 Falkenhayn, p. 9. 2 Appendix 49. 


attack made them necessary. To those at the front, how- IQ sept, 
ever, the days on the Aisne seemed a continuous battle 1914. 
which might at any moment develop into a decisive 
operation and end the war ; the apathy of trench warfare 
had not yet set in on either side. Artillery fire, though 
intermittent, never ceased for long. By day, sniping made 
it impossible to move about or to work except under 
cover ; constant vigilance was required to detect enemy 
infantry attacks in good time. Night was livelier even than 
day, and was made almost as bright at times by the 
enemy's flares and light balls ; but during darkness work- 
ing parties and supplies came up, patrols were continually 
on the move and reliefs were carried out. 

There was nothing novel in two armies thus facing 
each other, entrenched and adding daily to their defences. 
After the Russo-Japanese war a few writers had forecast 
that the next war on the Continent would be one of " siege 
" warfare in the field," l and, but for the doctrine of the 
offensive at all costs, held by both the French and German 
General Staffs, and the generally accepted theory that a 
war must, for financial and industrial considerations, be 
short, they had good reason on their side. Measuring the 
Franco-German frontier as about one hundred and sixty 
miles in length, or three hundred and twenty miles with the 
Franco-Belgian frontier added, and counting the heads of 
the trained men available in the belligerent countries, there 
were on both sides, for the shorter frontier some 30,000 
men, and for the longer nearly 15,000 men, per mile avail- 
able, nearly twenty or ten to the yard as the case might be. 
These, entrenched, were ample to hold all national terri- 
tory for 2,000 to 4,000 men a mile was the usual estimate 
for the requirements of a modern fortress , and to provide 
an enormous reserve to break through at any selected spot. 

It is unnecessary to recall the fortified lines of ancient 
campaigns, when lack of communications made the posses- 
sion of certain routes indispensable and caused turning 
movements to be slow and difficult. Operations . of those 
days, if only from lack of railway and other means of rapid 
transport, have nothing in common with those of modern 
warfare. In the American Civil War 1861-65 entrench- 
ments were extensively used by both sides, and after the 
failure of Grant to force Lee's breastworks in the Wilder- 
ness there had been the long period nine and a half 

1 E.g. " The Campaign of the Future," by Captain (now Lieut.-Colonel) 
C. E. P. Sankey, D.S.O., R.E., in the " R.E. Journal," January 1907. 


months, 16th June 1864 to 2nd April 1865 of deadlock 
in the trenches of the Petersburg lines. This genuine 
trench warfare ended only because the gradual extension 
of the lines westwards made it impossible for the Con- 
federates to man the trenches in sufficient strength, and 
they were forced to abandon them, in the hope of keeping 
the war going elsewhere. 

Passing over the extraordinary results obtained by 
entrenched troops at Plevna in 1877-8, we find that in the 
Russo-Japanese war, twenty-six years later, both sides 
took to the spade, and in the four months on the Sha Ho 
(15th October 1904 to 27th February 1905), assisted by 
experiences gained at Port Arthur, developed trench warfare 
to a very high degree. 

In the Balkan war the victorious Bulgarians were 
stopped before the Tchataldja Lines, which they could not 
turn ; the lines it is true had been magnificently sited in 
the leisure of peace, but were little better than earthworks. 

It is remarkable, therefore, that none of the belligerents 
entered the war prepared for trench warfare on a large 
scale. Digging had been encouraged by precept in the 
British Army, but, owing to the rapidity of the course of 
peace manoeuvres, was seldom possible in practice, except 
on the oft-dug-over soil of the tiny portion of the training 
ground allotted for the purpose. General Lanrezac has 
written that so opposed to entrenching was French 
doctrine in 1914, that when he ordered his corps to dig in 
before the battle of Charleroi, some evaded the order, and 
others, to satisfy the written word, threw up just a bour- 
relet of earth : a parapet about the size of a window 
sand-bag, as an Englishman would say. 

The Germans naturally had not trained their troops for, 
and did not expect position warfare, since, as has been 
already pointed out, their General Staff believed that the 
decision in France would be reached in 36 to 40 days. 
They had however prepared for and held exercises in the 
accelerated attack of fortifications, 1 with a view to dealing 
quickly with those of Eastern France, or at any rate pre- 
tending that they were in a position to do so. They had 
very carefully studied the Russo-Japanese war from this 
point of view ; and September 1914 found them equipped 
with heavy guns, 2 trench mortars, rifle-grenades, hand- 

1 E.g. at Coblenz in 1908. 

2 21-cm. (8-inch) howitzers reached the Aisne on the 14th September. 
Von Zwehl, p. 74. 


grenades, searchlights, illuminating pistols and periscopes, Sept. 
designed for the attack of fortresses, but practically com- 1914 - 
prising all the apparatus of trench warfare. Though, as 
the German record states, 1 these instruments " in their 

' present form are war-children grown large and perfected 
" in the storms and troubles of the times, yet they had been 
" so far developed in peace that the German Army in 
" August 1914 achieved great success with them against 

4 the Belgian fortresses." As the Germans relied on the 
suddenness of the attack and never contemplated lengthy 
operations, such matters as sound ranging, flash spotting 
and camouflage 2 were absent from their original concep- 
tion. Of the desirability of scattering batteries, maga- 
zines, observation stations, strong points and keeps, and 
interspersing them with dummies, so as to offer a multipli- 
cation of small targets, the Germans were fully cognizant ; 
they had for many years avoided building concrete shell- 
traps like the self-contained detached forts designed after the 
war of 1870-71 by Brialmont and Sere* de Riviere. The pre- 
cise nature of shelter necessary to resist heavy artillery had 
also been decided on. 3 Such matters had been exhaustively 
studied in the design and lay-out of the German Festc, the 
super-fortresses of Metz, Thionville, Strasbourg, etc. The 
arrangement of these permanently fortified areas was, as 
far as the means available permitted, imitated in field war- 
fare at the front ; thus in the course of time the German 
field defences developed on a definite plan into broad 
fortified zones. 

At the beginning therefore the enemy was at a great 
advantage in his knowledge of trench warfare ; and he had 
the material required for its practice, even if his men had 
not been generally trained in its use. 4 The improvisation 
by the British Army of trench warfare implements whilst 
waiting for them to be manufactured and supplied from 
home will be told in a later volume of this history ; the only 

1 " Die Technik im Weltkriege," by Generalleutnant Schwarte. 

2 Generalmajor von Gleich in "Die alte Armee," p. 19, says, "as 
" regards concealment from aeroplanes, we had learnt as good as nothing 
" (in peace). Even in the war we followed halting and hesitating behind 
" our adversaries. * Camouflage ' we actually only learnt from the 
" English after our losses had made us wise." 

8 The ferro-concrete shellproofs at Tsingtau " which perfectly resisted 
all calibres up to and including the 28 cm. howitzers " were 1-5 metres 
(5 feet) thick : that is to say the thickness of the pill boxes and other 
concrete shelters used in France (see " Der Kampf um Tsingtau," pp. 57 
and 194). 

4 The first German train load of engineer stores for siege warfare 
arrived on the Aisne on 14th September. Vogel, p. 111. 


engineer stores that reached it on the Aisne, beyond what 
the Engineer companies and bridging trains carried, were 
small quantities of barbed wire and sandbags, and the 
only heavy artillery that arrived (apart from the 60-pdrs. 
which formed part of the divisional artillery) were four 
batteries of old pattern 6-inch howitzers. 

The British could at first do little more than dig cover. 
Fortunately for them the soil on the slopes of the Aisne 
valley and on the plateau was easy, and as long as they 
were in the Aisne district that is to say before the first 
frosts the sides of the trenches, except in one sector of 
the II. Corps area, stood vertical without revetment ; in 
fact they stood so well that it was even possible to obtain 
additional cover by undercutting the sides in the South 
African fashion, thus forming the first " funk holes." 
The trenches dug at this period were rarely continuous, 
usually a succession of pits capable of holding a few men. 
Generally, they were of the narrow type, eighteen inches 
to two feet wide, with tiny traverses, three to six feet 
wide. These days were afterward spoken of in jest as the 
" Augustan Period " (August 1914) of field fortification. 
The narrow trenches, though giving good cover, proved 
the graves of some of the defenders, for men were occasion- 
ally buried alive in them. In siting fire trenches, when 
a choice was possible, concealment from the direct 
observation of hostile artillery became the most important 
factor ; on the slopes of the Aisne valley an extensive field 
of fire was out of the question, and it soon became evident 
that a short one, flanked by machine guns, was in reality 
more effective. 

The enemy on the Aisne seemed by his shooting to 
have such accurate information as to movements of troops 
and positions of batteries, that it was for some time sus- 
pected that he was being assisted by spies ; but experience 
went to show that the results were due rather to the 
enterprise of his artillery observers. In one case a German 
disguised as a farmer was found with a telephone in a 
house between the lines in direct communication with his 
countrymen. Several others were caught actually inside 
the British lines connected by the field telegraph wire 
to their batteries. One with a week's supply of food was 
found inside a haystack ; another who was concealed in 
a tree, on being detected by an officer looking up, promptly 
dropped upon him and, stunning him, escaped. 

As regards our own artillery, the difficulties of effectively 


employing the batteries on the plateau south of the Aisne is Sept. 
were at first almost insuperable. In order that they 1914 - 
might be defiladed from direct view they were necessarily 
placed well back from the edge of the heights, where they 
were four thousand yards or even further from the trenches 
of the British infantry. In the case of the 3rd Division, 
however, it was impossible to find positions on the north side 
of the river. Guns that were visible to ground observation 
were at once silenced by the German heavy howitzers, 
and the positions of those which could be approximately 
identified by their flashes or by aerial observation, were 
often subjected to a fire which compelled the withdrawal 
of the detachments. The British field howitzers were 
occasionally able to reach the German guns, but for the 
most part only the 60-pdr. batteries were of sufficient 
power and range to deal with them. 

On the 18th September, however, the redistribution of 
the British aeroplanes and their equipment with wireless 
enabled the British batteries to reply more effectively to 
the German. The system of maintaining forward observers 
was also extended, though the distance of the heavy guns 
to the rear, the interposition of the river and the incessant 
fire of the enemy made the laying and maintenance of 
telephone cables a difficult and dangerous matter ; they 
were continually cut and the labour of repairing them 
never ceased. Communication was hampered also by the 
casualties among trained men and by the instruments 
getting out of order. 

As the final weeks on the Aisne witnessed mainly 
artillery combats and no distinctive battle, some descrip- 
tion of the normal conditions of such fighting as did take 
place may be given here. 

In every division an aeroplane with an artillery officer 
as an observer, went up early each day. 1 The observer 
noted down the positions of German batteries on a squared 
map, and sent this map to the divisional artillery com- 
mander who settled which objectives his batteries could 
best engage. When any part of our infantry line was 
shelled, the batteries most capable of bringing fire to bear 
on the hostile guns were immediately ordered to search 
their position. Each " group " of guns and howitzers 
was under an artillery lieutenant - colonel who was re- 
sponsible for supporting his portion of the infantry line 

1 The first occasion on which British batteries worked with aeroplanes 
in war appears to have been the 13th September 1914. 


in case of attack, and was in touch with the infantry 
brigadier concerned. At certain preconcerted times, a 
general bombardment by all our batteries was carried 
out over the whole position of the Germans ; our aero- 
planes observed this fire, and sent corrections to each 

Throughout the long series of encounters on the Aisne, 
the British had the greatest difficulty in finding observa- 
tion stations, and in maintaining communication between 
them and the batteries. The Chemin des Dames, being 
the highest ridge in the neighbourhood, completely defiladed 
the German positions; for after the first two days, no 
British soldier overlooked the valley behind it, and it 
made direct observation impossible, except on a few German 
infantry trenches ; these were dealt with by batteries 
near the front line. Practically all shooting was done by 
the map, and ranges, switches and angles of sight were 
calculated from measures taken from maps. 

Attempts were at first made to observe from buildings 
and sheds, but these were usually knocked down very 
quickly or set on fire. There remained haystacks and 
" dug-outs " in the open. These gave cover from view, 
and deep trenches made near them on the side away from 
the enemy provided shelter from shrapnel and from 
machine-gun and rifle fire, but not from heavy shell, 
which either destroyed them or blew them in. A party 
of observers did remain nine days in a haystack near the 
Tour de Paissy, and this only once received a direct hit, 
though many heavy shells burst close to it. Every pre- 
caution had to be taken to prevent any movement from 
being visible from the front, such as making all orderlies 
and messengers stop and wait, if possible, one hundred 
yards short of observation posts, and insisting on absolute 
immobility when aeroplanes were near. 

All batteries were carefully entrenched, covered from 
view by bushes and straw ; dummy batteries were made, 
and teams sent back, as a rule, at least a mile to cover. 
" Funk holes " were generally to be found ready made 
in the numerous caves, to which detachments ran when 
serving their guns became impossible owing to hostile fire, 
remaining there until the shelling slackened. Replace- 
ment of ammunition was generally carried out by hand. 

Any change of position found desirable was made 
during darkness, after reconnaissance had been previously 
carried out during daylight. Dummy guns made with hop- 


poles, branches, etc., were left in the old positions when Sept. 
they were vacated. 1914 - 

The deep mud made " switching " for change of target 
a matter of much labour, and any change of over 15 
was impossible. The guns were left at night under a guard, 
with sufficient men and officers within call to work them 
in case of attack. Night lines were carefully marked 
before dark ; lamps were used as aiming points, and 
electric torches employed to read range dials when the 
batteries were actually firing. 

A great many different kinds of shell were fired by the 
German heavy howitzers. The high-explosive shell burst 
with a tremendous concussion, and made craters 15-20 
feet across and 10 feet deep. Their high-explosive shrapnel, 
however, though it made a terrific noise, and produced 
much green and white smoke, was comparatively harmless. 
Ordinary shrapnel was generally burst too high to be 
dangerous. A small high- velocity gun shell (" whizz-bang ") 
was very accurate, the burst and report of discharge being 
practically simultaneous. 

Besides using forward observers inside our lines, as 
already mentioned, the Germans observed artillery fire 
by means of : 

1. Captive sausage-shaped balloons. These were gener- 
ally kept low and well out of range. 

2. Observation posts very near our trenches such as 
the " Chimney " at the sugar factory on the Chemin des 
Dames, mile north-west of Troyon. This erection, 
though continually fired on and suffering many direct 
hits, was never actually demolished. 

3. Aeroplanes which continually flew over the whole 
battle front. If any of our troops moved or any guns 
fired when these were overhead and able to observe, an 
accurate heavy crossfire was opened almost at once by 
the German artillery. 

The canal, villages, bridges, and all railways and routes 
behind our positions were methodically searched, by shell 
each day. Headquarters and roads on which it was 
known that supplies and ammunition must move received 
special attention from the enemy. 

Nevertheless, the British gunners made their presence 
felt by the enemy ; and the second week of the new war- 
fare saw them competing on less uneven terms with the 
Germans. The arrival on the 23rd September of the 
brigade of old pattern 6-inch howitzers tended to reduce 


the disparity between them, but only to a small degree, 
for these weapons were of course far inferior to the enemy's 
8-inch howitzers. In the matter of anti-aircraft guns, 
the British ordnance also fell far behind the German. 
For this service, light quick-firing guns known as pom- 
poms were sent out from England early in September. 
It is sufficient to say that they fired a percussion shell, 
which, as not one in several hundred ever hit its aerial 
target, fell to earth, frequently at some point in the British 
lines, and there burst. Not a single enemy aeroplane was 
brought down at this period, either by these guns or by 
rifle fire. Such a state of things, it is needless to say, 
was neither reassuring nor comfortable. 

It remains before proceeding to the narrative of the 
operations to survey the all-important work accomplished 
in bridging the Aisne. On the 13th and 14th five pontoon 
bridges in all were built by the Engineers : at Bourg, 
Pont Arcy, Vailly, Venizel, and a mile above Venizel 
(those at Vailly and Venizel being of mixed construction, 
partly pontoon and partly barrel piers). In addition to 
these, the damaged aqueduct at Bourg and the road 
bridge at Venizel were repaired. On the 15th a barge 
bridge and a trestle bridge were completed over the canal 
near Bourg, and on the 17th a new pontoon bridge was 
laid at Bourg, the repair of the permanent bridge being 
simultaneously taken in hand. By the 20th two more 
bridges at Moulin des Roches and Missy, respectively, and 
a foot - bridge below Venizel had been constructed ; a 
damaged German trestle bridge at Chavonne had also 
been restored. On the 21st, the river being at the moment 
two feet above its level on the 15th, the aqueduct at Bourg 
was wrecked by a German shell, and for the time rendered 
useless. The enemy's observation must have been ex- 
cellent, for he ceased firing directly after this shell had 
burst. A semi-permanent bridge was therefore begun at 
Bourg, which was supplemented by another at Soupir, of 
which the construction commenced on the 28th. 

A wooden girder bridge to replace the broken span of 
the existing bridge was begun at Soissons on the 1st 
October and completed on the 9th. It was then handed 
over to the French, as the British were leaving the locality ; 
it was known hereafter as the Pont des Anglais, and was 
in use continuously until destroyed in the German offen- 
sive in 1918. In addition to all these bridges, barges 
equipped with roadway were prepared, ready to be swung 


instantly across the river to form additional bridges if Sept 

This bald enumeration, however, gives but a slight 
idea of the strain borne by the Engineers during the weeks 
that the Army was on the Aisne. Nearly all of the bridges 
were within known range of the German guns ; most of 
them were constructed and all of them at different times 
repaired, under fire. At Vailly, where a permanent 
bridge was much needed, the German shells prevented 
even an attempt to build one. The rise of the water 
necessitated frequent changes and modifications of level ; 
and the incessant rain made the task of keeping the 
approaches in order most difficult and trying. Yet the 
Engineers contrived not only to maintain the bridges, but 
to make bridgeheads and to entrench positions against 
the possibility of a retreat. In the course of the operations 
on the Aisne the divisional Field Companies R.E. which 
had done the work, were reinforced by the Bridging Train, 
and by the 20th and 42nd Fortress Companies from the 
Line of Communications ; but even with this assistance 
the burden of work thrown upon them was enormous. 

With these preliminary observations we may pass on 
to recount rapidly the operations on the British front, 
mentioning chiefly the events of the days on which infantry 
attacks took place, although on every day there was an 
intermittent duel of artillery. The chief centre of interest, 
be it remembered, was now shifting from the Aisne to the 
north-west, where, in the endeavour to out-flank each 
other, the French and Germans were continually extend- 
ing their sphere of operations northwards in the so-called 
" Race to the Sea." Of these operations an outline will 
be given later in this chapter. 

The week of 16th-22nd September. 

The general characteristics of the week which saw the Sketch 7. 
beginning of trench warfare were continued wet weather, ^ a P s J 
intermittent bombardment by both sides, steady advance 
of the German trenches to closer quarters with the British, 
and almost daily German attacks of a more or less serious 
nature. These were made, as already explained, to hold 
the Allied forces on the Aisne whilst troops were being 
shifted to the western flank. The losses from the heavy 


German shells were at the outset considerable, for the 
British trenches were as yet so incomplete as to afford only 
indifferent shelter. Thus on the 15th September the High- 
land Light Infantry had sixty, and on the following day the 
2 /Grenadiers seventy casualties from German shell fire. 
On the 16th the Oxfordshire Light Infantry lost twenty- 
two killed and wounded and the 1 /King's Royal Rifle 
Corps sixty-eight ; whilst on the 17th the artillery had 
forty horses killed at Bucy le Long. On the right of the 
I. Corps front the trenches (held by the 2nd Infantry 
Brigade) just south of the Chemin des Dames were sub- 
jected to a galling enfilade fire both from rifles and guns. 
The plateau of Paissy again was swept by artillery fire 
from east, north and west. German snipers were both 
active and troublesome against the front of the 3rd and 
5th Divisions, where their possession of commanding 
ground combined with the proximity of the trenches, gave 
them decided advantages. At Missy the British position 
seemed tactically hopeless, for it was immediately domi- 
nated by the promontory at Chivres, and had but a limited 
field of fire in any direction. Just east of Ste. Marguerite (1J 
miles W.N.W. of Missy) the trenches of the British were in 
places only twelve yards from the enemy ; and nowhere in 
the Chivres Valley were they more than two hundred 
yards distant. Altogether during the first few days of 
the new warfare the situation of the British seemed any- 
thing but good. 

Nevertheless the leaders and troops never for a moment 
lost confidence ; and every day saw the situation improve. 
On the 16th September the 6th Division, delayed in trans- 
port by the shifting of the British base from Havre to St. 
Nazaire, arrived in rear of the III. Corps. It was tem- 
porarily broken up in order to provide relief to the war- 
worn troops of the first five divisions. The 17th and 18th 
Infantry Brigades were attached to the I. Corps, and the 
16th to the II. Corps. The 17th Infantry Brigade became 
corps reserve, releasing the 1st Cavalry Division which 
from the 19th September onward furnished five hundred 
rifles for